Jonathan Trenn, an online marketer who says he’s been trying to drum up work with an unnamed D.C. restaurant group, explains on the Marketing Conversation blog why the group’s previous tactics have failed to increase diners at its four restaurants. “They’re inherently flawed and, thus, were doomed from the start,” Trenn writes. “The mindset was to do something at the lowest cost possible and hope it works out.”

Trenn then rips into one specific idea that the restaurant group tried to float: free ice cream sundaes for kids on Tuesdays, a typically slow night in the hospitality business.

Bad idea. And it’s not that we already have a free ice cream scoop kids seven days of the week. All this adds is chocolate syrup and some whipped cream. But one thing should stand out when it comes to kids and Tuesday night.

Tuesday day is a school day, Tuesday night is a school night. It ain’t gonna work.

Tuesday is the second worst day of the week. Using this as a mechanism to get people to come out is useless. If mom and dad wanted to take Billy and Susie out for an ice cream, they’d head for Baskin Robbins. The offer isn’t strong enough. If they picked one night, they should have picked Sunday night. That’s the night that families go out. That’s often because they’re already out or got home too late to cook. And if we were doing it on Sunday night, the customer would have more control and we would be highlighted more. But Sunday is a school night, isn’t it?

Well, yeah. But here’s why a customer would have more control on Sunday. Mom and Dad will start out with a few places in mind to take the kids. There’s this place and that place, but there’s CD that has free ice cream sundaes for the kids. Let’s choose there. We want to go out and we’ll benefit more by going to CD. So, CD would have empowered the parents to make an easier choice. Instead, with Tuesday, we’re looking to essentially force parents to trudge out on a school night if they really want to give their child a free ice cream sundae. The payoff isn’t there. The hassle of going out – on a school night, and spending money that they wouldn’t have spent (because they would have stayed home) isn’t worth hassle. On Sunday night, when they’re already planning to head out, the payoff is staring them in the face.

This is but one example of how companies market themselves to benefit…themselves…and not the customer. The restaurant has put itself first here, with very little consideration of satisfying the customers’ needs. It’s an attempt to fill seats on an off night by an offering an that gives no real benefits. It tells me that their marketing philosophy is flawed because they’re doing what they do strictly on their terms. The odd thing is that otherwise, the establishments are very customer centric.

Image by Flickr user Jef Poskanzer.