The Branding Secret of Secret Menus

In Customer Experience, Featured on App, Loyalty & CRM, Marketing and Sales by Kevin Kelly

starbucks,,brand awarness, marketing strategies, loyal customer, customer behaviour, customer empowerment, customer engagement strategy, loyalty campaign, Secret, strategy

Ever thought you wanted a burger with 4 hamburger patties, 4 slices of cheese, loads of bacon, and a secret sauce? A strawberry cheesecake Frappuccino? Frozen hot chocolate? For me, not really, but these menu items exist at many US chain restaurants and they're a secret. Chains like Burger King, Starbucks, Chipotle, In-N-Out, Panera Bread, Dairy Queen, McDonalds, and Jamba Juice are all utilizing secret menus and consumers are excited. If the products on the secret menus are so great why don't the restaurants just simply market them normally?

Well, these menu items are perhaps the most poorly kept secrets in the restaurant industry. The openness of the secrets is, in fact, more of a well played marketing technique. Consumers feel exclusive when they order these items. They feel ‘in' with the brand if they know the secrets of the kitchen. What's more instagramable than a ‘secret' Starbucks drink?

Indeed, it's precisely the illusion of secrets that generates free marketing campaigns for the restaurants via social media and blogs. Websites like Buzzfeed and Business Insider tout the incredibleness of these secret menu items and consequently, just end up branding the products. Consumers then can excitedly order these items and share the ‘secrets' with their friends.

The secret to the secret menu is this: we like to gossip and we like divulging secrets. And these secrets are harmless. Secrets are temporarily appropriated to the self—this is my secret that I can share if I want. This creative and intellectual ownership of the confidential menu per se is what makes these secret menus so successful—it lets the consumers feel a participative and exclusive connection with the brand.

Now, could this be considered brand loyalty? In some form, yes, because the consumer most likely already had an established relationship with the brand. Extending the relationship to a secret menu only makes the loyalty more dynamic, nuanced, and ultimately more powerful.

Oh and here's a link to the Starbucks secret menu if you're interested.

These are the kinds of ideas that will be analyzed at Loyalty World USA 2013 which is co-located with Big Data World 2013 this October.

[image – flickr braker]