Making Noise & Driving Traffic: The Rise of Short-Term LTO’s

Thinking product development, new menu offering, or seasonal LTOs? Making noise and driving traffic with a new offering can be challenging. Marketing strategies change so fast, sometimes observing what big brands are doing can be a true inspiration to help you market your new products or limited-time offers.

Some Marketing Takeaways on the Unicorn Frappuccino

Most people are familiar with the Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks launched earlier this year. Regardless of your opinion on the drink itself, there is something one cannot deny: the coffee company is doing good at making news. According to Heather DeSantis, a public relations specialist, the success of this limited- time offer can be attributed to several factors that you may want to implement for a similar promotion. First thing is to take advantage of something trending on social media, just like Unicorn was at the same time Apple launched the Unicorn emoji. The next thing to focus on is to come up with an aesthetically pleasant concept or product. The success of the Unicorn Frappuccino and the reason why it was so heavily shared on social media was because of its fairy-like shades of pink, blue, and purple. While Starbucks came up with the drink, the consumers really were the ones to promote it. Brand evangelists are key for launching new concepts. By giving them the power to share the news, people who love your brand will spread the word very quickly. Finally, capitalize on a theme that can attract a new crowd. With the Unicorn drink, Starbucks not only succeeded at increasing sales of a single drink, but also at acquiring new customers like teens and college-age patrons, or even younger kids. And the unicorn phenomenon has since proliferated way past the drink category. These past few months, unicorn-themed cakes, toasts, cannolis, cookies, doughnuts, and much more have also appeared on social media.

Designing Instagram-Friendly Offerings

One could think that the Unicorn drink was designed with Instagram in mind, and for a good reason. According to the LA Times, the week it was released, the drink dominated social media with more than 150,000 posts with the tag #unicornfrappuccino. The current consumer behavior for the millennial demographic is to take a picture and post it online instantly. So companies developing new food are making sure they are optimized for a filtered selfie.

Christine Couvelier, executive chef and president of Culinary Concierge, a company that tracks food trends and developments, says that food is “today’s hottest social currency.” This explains why designing Instagram-friendly offerings are attractive to companies. Artisanal drinks, frozen colorful desserts, and cocktails are very photogenic and naturally appealing. More than ever it is important not to neglect food presentation since improving the look of food in photos can really make the difference in sales. Many consumers had commented on how they did not even enjoy the Unicorn Frappuccino drink for its taste, yet admitted to purchase at a premium price just for the social post.

Days-Short LTOs, Challenging yet Rewarding

While traditional limited-time offers such as seasonal flavors (think pumpkin) can last for a few weeks, days-short LTOs offer the advantage to bring heavy traffic in a shorter period of time. Having a short-term promotion requires a lot of preparation, as it needs to be communicated very well to make sure people will get to your store as soon as the product is available. The bakery that did the Cronut®, for instance, would make a limited supply with only 350 pieces per day, and limited quantities of purchase per customer (two in-store and six online). The demand was so high that people would even buy them on non-food related web resources (i.e. craigslist®). Perceived scarcity is one powerful motivator for customers, as time frames for food generate curiosity and sometimes necessity. It is proven that consumers are more likely to make a purchase if they believe the item will not be available in the future. So by limiting an item to be only available for a few days instead of weeks has a magnifying effect on driving traffic.

A few years ago, brands were not considering social media that much for launching new products, but now, it seems like it has become inevitable, especially in the food industry. LTOs have proven to be a successful sales strategy, as they create an opportunity to drive traffic and make noise, especially for seasonal products and flavors.