3 Wacky Customer Retention Campaigns – and Why They Worked

It’s so noticeable when a company does something for its customers that’s even a bit outside what’s considered the norm. Often this is just what it takes to turn run-of-the-mill customers into raving, loyal fans

Matt Duczeminski
August 25 2017

Most modern companies implement some kind of program or initiative to keep customers coming back on a continual basis.

While the nuances of these campaigns differ depending on the individual company, they’re all pretty similar for the most part. Loyalty and referral programs, exclusive deals, and offers of added service and support have all but become status quo at this point.

Which is why it’s so noticeable when a company does something for its customers that’s even a bit outside what’s considered the “norm” with regard to customer service and appreciation initiatives.

Not only are these campaigns or events noticeable, but they’re also effective.

Below are three companies that show real ingenuity when they demonstrate appreciation for their customers, efforts that have had a positive effect on their brand awareness and retention rates. 

#1 Chick-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day

For over a decade, fast food giant Chick-fil-A has celebrated its annual Cow Appreciation Day. For one day in the month of July, customers can visit any participating location and receive a free chicken entree – but there’s a catch.

Why It’s Wacky

Customers must be wearing a cow costume.

Okay, you don’t need to be completely decked out in cow regalia. But you at least need to have some sort of cow-patterned clothing or jewelry on.

We probably could let the above picture speak for itself to explain why such a campaign is wacky.

Going beyond the costumes, the premise of only providing a free meal to certain customers is definitely out of the ordinary. Think of the many restaurants and eateries that designate a “free item” day; to get your free ice cream or appetizer from these places on these days, all a customer needs to do is show up. While the premise of Cow Appreciation Day is wacky to begin with, the concept of making customers put effort into getting something for free might be even stranger.

Why It’s Great:

One of the main reasons Chick-fil-A’s annual “holiday” is so effective is because it aligns perfectly with the brand’s long-running “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign.

For the uninitiated, Chick-fil-A’s billboards and ads often feature cows holding crudely-written signs begging the viewer to opt for a chicken-based meal instead of a hamburger. We could probably write a dissertation on the philosophical paradox of saying you “love chicken” while taking a bite of a chicken sandwich…but we digress.

The point is, Cow Appreciation Day brings customers into the fold. Chick-fil-A does an incredible job of making its customers feel like “one of the group” – both on Cow Appreciation Day and throughout the rest of the year. The midsummer holiday demonstrates how a fast food company can go beyond making tasty food to create a base of loyal customers.

Does It Work?

Oh yeah.

For one thing, Chick-fil-A’s website reports that it gave away over 1.6 million free entrees on Cow Appreciation Day in 2016. That’s 1.6 million people who are big enough fans of the company’s food that they were willing to don cow-patterned clothing in public for a free bite.

Outside of the holiday, Chick-fil-A consistently shows up at or near the top of annual surveys of fast-food joints regarding customer service and satisfaction. Additionally, the company’s high retention rate is one of the main contributing factors to it generating the most revenue per restaurant in the US.

Who knew we were so susceptible to the advice of our bovine friends?

#2 Nikon’s Arena Party

In 2011, Nikon hosted an invitation-only event specifically as a “thank you” to its most loyal fans. And it wasn’t just a small get-together, either: it took place at Arena, a popular event space right near Times Square in Manhattan.

Why It’s Wacky

For one thing, hosting a party in the middle of Manhattan was, without a doubt, an expensive venture – even for a corporation like Nikon. Throwing a party for their customers definitely cost the company some major cash up front. In the profit-driven world of business, shelling out money like this is definitely worthy of being deemed “wacky.”

But, the party in itself was pretty eccentric, too. Most notably, Nikon partnered with , making the company’s YouBooth photobooth accessible to all partygoers. Not only were these pictures immediately printed for all invitees, but they were also projected onto a large wall throughout the party.

Why It’s Great

It’s pretty unheard of that a company would shell out such major cash to throw an all-out party just to show their customers some appreciation. Most companies send a 10% off coupon to customers via email and call it a day.

In other words, it’d be hard to believe anyone who attended the party would ever stop patronizing Nikon any time in the near future.

But the party also provided Nikon the opportunity to gain some visibility, as all photos taken inside the booth included the company’s logo. It definitely isn’t hard to imagine that many of these pictures ended up on a number of social media feeds – meaning Nikon got some free publicity from its happiest customers.

Did It Work?

You tell me:

Silliness aside, while there’s not much hard evidence that the party resulted in an increase in customer retention or brand awareness, it’s safe to say an event of this magnitude didn’t hurt the company in terms of customer happiness.

Consider again that Nikon didn’t do everything on its own. It partnered with Arena, 5th Avenue Digital, and Shawn Rabideau Events & Design to make it all happen. In turn, fans of these companies were surely notified of the event – and the fact that Nikon truly appreciates its customers.

#3 Samsung Canada’s Viral Dragon Phone Incident

In 2012, a Samsung customer left a comment on the company’s Facebook page requesting a free Galaxy S3.

And he got it.

Why It’s Wacky

Okay, so Samsung didn’t just send the guy a free phone just because he asked nicely. There’s a bit more to the story than that.

Here’s how it went down:

The customer made the request and included a silly drawing with his comment:

Then, a representative of Samsung Canada replied with this message (and drawing!):

The story could have simply ended on that awesome note.

But it didn’t.

After receiving the reply, Shane posted the correspondence to Reddit…where it immediately went viral.

Months later, when Samsung released the S3, the company actually did send Shane the phone he had asked for…along with a personalized addition:

Yes, that’s Shane’s probably-created-in-Microsoft-Paint dragon emblazoned on the case of his new Galaxy S3.

It really doesn’t get wackier than that, does it?

Why It’s Great

A more difficult question to answer would be “Why isn’t this great?”

Let’s dive in further:

First of all, companies get requests for free stuff all the time. The fact that someone actually even took the time to respond to Shane’s message in the first place is amazing.

Second of all, the fact that the Samsung representative responded in a personable, equally-silly manner is downright awesome.

Lastly, it’s safe to say the representative alone wasn’t the one who made the decision to send Shane the phone he had asked for; it was clearly a top-down decision. It’s one thing for a customer service rep to send a quirky message in response to a ridiculous request…but it’s another thing altogether for the company to actually honor it.

On one level, this instance showed that Samsung gives its employees the freedom to answer questions and comments in a personable manner (rather than providing robotic responses full of corporate jargon). Furthermore, it proved that Samsung isn’t just out to sell electronics; the company operates to make its customers happy.

Does It Work?

The initial response to Shane’s request went viral.

But Shane’s subsequent post informing followers that he had actually received his new phone got even more attention: it has a 95% upvote rate on Reddit to this day.

Samsung has proven to be a customer favorite since this event, as well. Data collected by SurveyMonkey in 2015 showed that Samsung ranked highest among smartphone providers in terms of customer loyalty.

(Of course, this was before the whole “phones catching fire” debacle, but that’s a story for another time.)

To Wrap It All Up…

Though each of these campaigns or initiatives differ in many ways, they all have one common thread:

They all came about in the interest of having fun.

No matter how big your company grows, never forget that your customers – and your employees – are people. Keeping this in mind is often what makes certain companies stand out above the rest of their robotic, corporate counterparts. And it’s often these fun little additions that turn the run-of-the-mill customer into raving, loyal fans.

Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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