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Archive for October, 2009

The Louvre

The Louvre museum in Paris

I’ve never been to Paris, but when I think of the Louvre, I imagine soaking up culture while looking at the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and now… the golden arches? At the beginning of this month, McDonald’s announced it is opening a restaurant in the Louvre. The news has since caused some controversy.

Online Discussion

Comments in reply to posts and articles began popping up both for and strongly against this decision. One reader, Morgan65, posted a comment to an article on NYDailyNews.com:

This must be a joke! With all the wonderful cafés inside the Louvre serving delicious, reasonably priced, and healthy fare, why would anyone want to eat the garbage McDonald’s produces?

Another reader, ElJodon, disagreed with anti-McDonald’s comments like Morgan65’s:

Oh please, get over it. It’s just commerce at work. It the French were not eating McDonald’s then a franchise would not be opening there just like the other 1,135 already in France. Everything in moderation. A burger once in a while is not the end of the world.

PR Perspective

An article about this story appeared on Fast Company‘s Web site, in which Kate Rockwood mentioned the opposition Starbucks met last year when it opened a store outside the Louvre. There was even a petition. This makes me curious to see what will happen between now and the day McDonald’s opens in the museum next month.

The story has already caused many people to speak out against the fast food giant, and I have to think McDonald’s could have handled the situation better from a PR perspective. As far as I can tell, company representatives have not been speaking out a lot about their decision to move into the Louvre. Though journalists, bloggers and other commentators have brought up points in defense of McDonald’s, I can’t even find as much as a company-issued press release on the topic.

Desserts at a McDonald's in Paris. Photo by Larry Mendel.

The dessert display at a McDonald's already in Paris. Yes, that is cheesecake.

I’m not sure if McDonald’s is monitoring what consumers are saying about it, or if it’s just such a large corporation that it doesn’t even bother; but if I were working for its PR team, I would want to get involved in the conversation. I’ve found in researching this story that many of the people opposed to the McDonald’s in the Louvre are not French, but American.

I think the McDonald’s image would improve if its representatives articulated some of the differences between French and American McDonald’s stores. Though the McDonald’s franchises in France don’t exactly serve gourmet cuisine, they tend to be a bit classier than the ones in the U.S. Perhaps consumers would find McDonald’s more fitting for the Louvre if they were made aware? 

…OK, so maybe telling Americans they are missing out on the fancy French McDonald’s cheesecake isn’t the best way to change the minds of people against the Louvre location, but I do think McDonald’s should be doing something.

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Paula Deen at her kids' cooking demo during last year's festival

Food Network star Paula Deen engaged kids during a cooking demo at last year's festival.

Even in today’s economy, people will pay large sums of money when promised great food and celebrity sightings. This was proven this past weekend at the second annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival. The festival featured more than 100 events over four days. Events ranged from cooking demonstrations and wine tastings to book signings and live interviews with celebrity chefs like Paula Deen and Giada De Laurentiis.

Giving Back

Though tickets for each event spanned from $10 to $500, ticket buyers had a reason to feel good about spending the money. All net proceeds from the festival went to the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, which help feed underprivileged New Yorkers and American children, respectively.

Social Media

The NYC Wine & Food Festival promoters used social media tools to their advantage in the execution of this year’s festival. Here are some of the ways they did this:

  • Facebook users can become fans of the festival on its Facebook page, which posted news and updates leading up to this year’s event.
  • Festival Founder and Director Lee Schrager uses his own Twitter account to update followers on both this festival and its sister event, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Schrager tweeted live from New York throughout the festival weekend, as did the Food Bank for New York City and celebrities like Katie Lee Joel and Bobby Flay.
  • All weekend, people could follow the festival in real time using Twitter’s hashtag feature (by searching #nycwff).
  • On Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., “prominent NYC food bloggers” were invited to New York hotel The Standard (A.K.A. festival headquarters) to interview chefs.
The 2009 NYC Wine & Food Festival took place October 8-11.

The 2009 NYC Wine & Food Festival took place October 8-11.

Journalists Welcome

Festival organizers put a lot of effort into attracting media coverage of the event. They began distributing press releases six months prior to the festival, updating journalists at each point of development. In order to attend the event, accredited media members had to register and request press tickets. By issuing tickets and controlling which media outlets covered various events, the festival committee made it easier to monitor press coverage of the event.

Wise Promotion

Events are always great opportunities to promote an organization, and the NYC Wine & Food Festival was able to draw positive attention to more than just the Food Network. Because the event was successful, credible and philanthropic, its sponsors (Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines), the organizations it benefited and participating celebrities all had something to gain from a PR perspective.

In addition to sending out press releases and allowing journalists to cover the event, the festival organizers were conscious of the impact social media has on the public. The festival utilized tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to gain free publicity and make the event an interactive experience.

I have the very ambitious goal of attending the NYC Wine & Food Festival next year (time and income permitting). But no matter if I’m following the festivities from home or tweeting live from the event, I can’t wait to see what new promotional tactics the festival’s organizers come up with for 2010.

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A refreshing glass of coffee from stock.xchng, taken by Sergio López

Starbucks wants you to know you can now enjoy your favorite coffee in an instant.

When it comes to promotion, there’s no denying that Starbucks has got it together. Though it doesn’t need to remind consumers of its existence (caffeine cravings take care of this on their own), Starbucks continues to dominate the coffee shop industry by coming up with new ways to impress the public. From educating customers about its global responsibility program, to constantly monitoring its online image on Twitter, Starbucks is paying attention to how it is seen in the public eye.

From the PR perspective, I think the way Starbucks uses Twitter is one of the best examples of how businesses can benefit from social media. I love how Starbucks responds to people’s tweets (both positive and negative) regarding the company. Starbucks has its own “Twitter Master” Brad Nelson, who updates followers on company news, answers customer questions and even apologizes when people complain about slow service!

But the latest PR move Starbucks has made that impressed me is its promotion of Starbucks VIA instant coffee, which hit stores last week.

Road Trip

On September 29, the aforementioned Brad arrived in New York, the last stop on a two-week road trip with stand-up comedian Erin Foley. The pair traveled from Seattle (Starbucks headquarters) to New York in a SUV promoting the new instant coffee, stopping in each state to hand out samples. Starbucks filmed the road trip and invited customers to follow Brad and Erin’s journey in eight documentary-style webisodes posted on YouTube.

Taste Test

Today is the last day of the Starbucks VIA Taste Challenge, which took place in Starbucks stores across the country over the weekend. Baristas challenged participants to taste (for free!) both the new VIA instant coffee and the classic Pike Place Roast brewed coffee, then  try to guess which one was instant. Participants also received coupons for both products.

Interactive Contest

Until November 10, coffee lovers can submit a video, picture or essay to Starbucks that shows or explains how they used Starbucks VIA in the five different ways or places listed on the product site. They include:

Winners are chosen each week for six weeks (today is the last day to submit for the first week) and can win prizes like an iPod touch.

Starbucks VIA comes in packages of three and 12.

Comes in packages of three and 12. Available in Italian Roast and Colombia.

Smart Strategy

I am impressed with the lengths (literally a length of 4,000 miles for Brad and Erin) Starbucks has gone to promote this new product. It has reached out to consumers online through the webisodes and product-mentioning tweets, it has directly approached customers with the taste challenge and it has asked VIA fans to talk about how they use the product with the online contest. 

All of these methods are innovative ways of promoting a new product. With the announcement of each element, Starbucks’s PR team wrote a fact sheet or news release, further increasing the chance of gaining media coverage on its new product. I think that if the company continues to promote itself creatively, it will be around to keep people happily caffeinated for a very long time.

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