“The Chico Effect”

December 11, 2009 at 10:00 am (Marketing, Sales and Business)

Growing up in South Africa, there were many reasons to get excited. There were all the usual highlights that very young children should always have to look forward to such as Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, losing “baby” teeth and scheming with your 4-year-old sister to stay up and mug the tooth fairy (thats a whole nother story!) and the parents deciding that you have been such a good child that they will buy you a puppy.. which, looking back on it, seemed to tie in very closely with a spate of burglaries in the area….
 
There was one event though, one event that stood head and shoulders above the rest to a 7-11 year old. It was an event that was signified by a unique coloured envelope through the post box, followed by LOADS of bragging to your mates at school (and one became much more popular over that time?!) and then of course, came the GREAT event. Yup, anyone who grew up in a lower-middle class or better family in South Africa will resonate with, yup, you guessed it!! AN INVITE FROM CHICO THE CLOWN to go TO THE SPUR ON YOUR BIRTHDAY and claim,not only your free crayons and colouring-in papers but you were also entitled to KIDDIES Hamburger and Chips and then….. Finally it would come – a CHICO THE CLOWN ICE-CREAM and the kitchen staff would come through and sing you HAPPY birthday!!
 
Yup, those were the days of PURE unadulterated excitement. Days prior to the event would seem to take bloody forever to pass and sleeping at night was pretty tough, but we got there in the end.
 
I do remember one incident actually where “Chico the clown”actually appeared at one childs birthday party. It was during one of my friend’s birthday parties and they were evidently a great deal wealthier than my family as he got 2 balloons and “happy birthday” sung to him in ENGLISH. Thing was, Chico’s entrance was somewhat unexpected and when you are a little kid and see a fully grown man in a clown suit and full-on make up jump out from behind a door screaming “Surprise!!!” is more than enough to make you jump and spill your cream soda float!
 
Now, onto the strategy: restauranteurs, Bar / Club owners, basically anyone that runs a venue that wants to attract clients is always keen on “getting people in the door”. Getting “bums on seats” is what keeps the chiming away. Now, giving away a kiddies burger and an upside own ice-cream with two Smarties for eyes is going to cost you a tiny amount. Thats money going out. But now, the thing is that people who go out for a “free birthday meal”, very seldom go out alone ( except for this one bloke i knew but he threatened to sue me if I mentioned him in this passage!) they bring along others to help them celebrate, those other people are paying full price.
 
Pretty straight forward – right? Most EFFECTIVE Marketing is. The thing is, if people don’t do it then you are missing out on the opportunity to 1) get more people than you would have had come in for dinner and 2) getting the chance to get NEW people, potentially regular future customers to enjoy the evening in your location. It’s even better if your “birthday boy / girl” is a bit of an “Opinion Leader” and knows a lot of people, a bit of a “social butterfly”. The more popular they are, the more chance they have of bringing big numbers to your location. As a matter of fact, one of the best Marketers of the Food and beverage industry that I know actually went through offering FREE FOOD to anyone who booked a table on one of their pre-opening nights. He listed it as “putting the staff through their paces” but in reality, not only did it do that, it guaranteed that he got some big numbers into his restaurant / bar. More people to enjoy the experience of eating there, the more chance they have of coming back – repeat customers are the best kind of custom you will get. It costs you very little to keep them coming back if you treat them right – a new customer however, can cost you a great deal to get in through the door.

Easter, Christmas and mugging the tooth fairy……!
Growing up in South Africa, there were many reasons to get excited. There were all the usual highlights that very young children should always have to look forward to such as Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, losing “baby” teeth and scheming with your 4-year-old sister to stay up and mug the tooth fairy  when she came to give you money for your teeth (that’s a whole nother story!) and the parents deciding that you have been such a good child that they will buy you a puppy.. which, looking back on it, seemed to tie in very closely with a spate of burglaries in the area….
 
The best of the best… “Enter Chico, the clown”
 
There was one event though, one event that stood head and shoulders above the rest to a 7-11 year old. It was an event that was signified by a brightly coloured envelope through the post box, followed by LOADS of bragging to your mates at school (and one became much more popular over that time?!) and then of course, came the GREAT event. Yup, anyone who grew up in a lower-middle class or better family in South Africa will resonate with, you guessed it!! AN INVITE FROM CHICO THE CLOWN to go TO THE SPUR ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!
 
Not only could you claim your free crayons and colouring-in papers but you were also entitled to KIDDIES Hamburger and Chips and then….. FINALLY…… it would come – the crowning glory of any youngsters evening out at Spur:  A CHICO THE CLOWN ICE-CREAM – WITH a sparkler in it and the kitchen staff would come through and sing you “Happy Birthday!!”
 
Yup, those were the days of PURE unadulterated excitement. Days prior to the big event would seem to take bloody forever to pass by and sleeping at night was pretty tough, but we got there in the end. ***** (see right to the end)
 
Now, to “The Business End” of this…
 
Now, onto the strategy: Restaurateurs, Bar / Club owners, basically anyone that runs a venue that wants to attract clients is always keen on “getting people in the door”. Getting “bums on seats” is what keeps the chiming away. Now, giving away a kiddies burger and an upside own ice-cream with two Smarties for eyes is not going to cost you the earth. It’s money going out. But now, the thing is that people who go out for a “free birthday meal”, very seldom go out alone ( except for this one bloke I knew but he threatened to sue me if I mentioned him in this passage!) they bring along others to help them celebrate, those other people are paying full price.
 
Pretty straight forward – right? Most EFFECTIVE Marketing is.
 
The thing is, if people don’t do it then they are missing out on the opportunities to
 
1) get more people than they would have had come in for dinner that night and
 
2) getting the chance to get NEW people,  potentially regular future customers to enjoy the evening in your location. All at very low-cost.
 
It’s even better if your “birthday boy / girl” is a bit of an “Opinion Leader” and knows a lot of people, a bit of a “social butterfly”. The more popular they are, the more chance they have of bringing big numbers to your location.
 
As a matter of fact, one of the best Marketers of the Food and Beverage industry that I know actually went through offering FREE FOOD to anyone who booked a table on one of their pre-opening nights (I know people who were there 3 nights in a row!). The venue was a very nice upper class venue in the heart of Leicester Square, London. He listed it as “putting the staff through their paces” but in reality, not only did he do that, but it guaranteed that he got some big numbers into his restaurant / bar. More people to enjoy the experience of eating there and more chance they would have of coming back – repeat customers are the best kind of custom you will get. It costs you very little to keep them coming back if you treat them right – a new customer however, can cost you a great deal to get in through the door, especially when you consider advertising costs, troublesome customers, so on and so forth.
 
So there we have it folks, give someone a free birthday meal and they will bring their friends. Show them a GREAT evening and they will be back for more. Very simple, very profitable and, most importantly easy to implement.
 

***** There is a little epilogue to the above story: I do remember one incident where “Chico the clown”actually appeared at one child’s birthday party. It was during one of my friends birthday parties and they were evidently a great deal wealthier than my family as he got TWO balloons and “happy birthday” sung to him in ENGLISH. Thing was, Chico’s entrance was somewhat unexpected and when you are a little kid and see a fully grown man in a clown suit and full-on make up jump out from behind a door screaming “SURPRISE!!!” is more than enough to make you jump and spill your cream soda float!
 
Health, Wealth and Happiness.
 
Paul Harrison
 
P.S. If there is a certain topic or business industry that you want me to cover, let me know and I will see what I can do. I will try my best but as I am human, I am not always able to have all the answers.
 
P.P.S. If you have enjoyed the above, please leave a comment or invite some friends.

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1 Comment

  1. niel martin said,

    Great stuff bigyan

    In my restaurants we do the same to invite people before opening – its called ‘dry runs’ – its very important to get these runs right, its to be honest more for the staff you have just employed to practice what you have tought and trained them in.

    Getting this wrong could potentially harm and bite you in the arse. Opening the new one in Westfields we invited 2400 people over two days – it was a pleasure to stand and watch that working fine!!

    Keep up the good work mate – thats very good!

    Niel Martin

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