The Unicorn Frappucino created an Instagram frenzy when it came out in April. Now Taco Bell is gaining attention for its Naked Chicken Chips. Both restaurants are known for popping up with crazy new recipes, but what does this do for the bottom line? Starbucks acknowledges it likely won’t increase quarterly revenue, but there’s a level of brand value gained from fad foods.
Fad foods or stunt foods are unusual dishes or drinks. This can be based on size, ingredients or taste. They are often created for limited periods of time to grab attention.
Why do they work?
They allow consumers to try something new. It also gives them the opportunity to be trendy and share the unique images on social platforms (more publicity for you!).
Let’s not forget that the need for food is never-ending; advertisers have 3+ times per day to grab a consumer’s attention. Further, consumers know more about food than ever before (think of Food Network TV Shows and the endless discussion of food on social media), so they’re more interested than ever in trying the newest food trend. It’s just as much a culture and social experience as it is a relief for your hunger.
Some experts weigh in:
- “It’s in-and-out buzz. Consumers look for the new ‘it’ or the new ‘wow’ and want to taste it.” –Christine Couvelier, global culinary trend expert and president of food development firm Culinary Concierage
- “The launch of extreme food is an effort to capture the zeitgeist of the market. Such efforts are very short-lived; result in free publicity, often profitable; and sharply decline in effect.” –Anne Balazs, interim dean and professor of marketing of Eastern Michigan University’s college of business
Notorious examples of stunt food:
- KFC Double Down: a sandwich with chicken fillets instead of bread.
- Burger King Whopperito: hamburger meat and cheese wrapped in a tortilla.
- Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites Pizza: a pizza with hot dog bites crust.
- Taco Bell Naked Breakfast Taco: meat, potatoes, and cheese wrapped in an egg taco shell.
- Jack-in-the-Box Bacon Milkshake.
What does it do for a brand?
As stated earlier, Starbucks is not anticipating an affect on quarterly sales or earnings but it creates buzz. As Morningstar restaurant analyst R.J. Hottovy puts it, Starbucks’ growth comes from its drink innovation:
“It’s a competitive market. A lot of people are moving into the coffee space. It’s not for everyone, but it gets people talking. It takes some innovation to drive people to your locations.”
Also, Balasz identified fad food’s long-term effect: “The fad is remembered long after the demand. It is a relatively quick way to breathe life into flat sales.”
Not only is innovation helping Starbucks to stay ahead of competitors, but people don’t forget these efforts. They bring greater awareness and memorability to your brand.
You don’t have to be a massive brand for this to work. Plenty of small businesses are known for unique recipes. For example, Macaron Parlour has offered Cheeto Macrons. Additionally, Max Brenner’s chocolate bar has offered chocolate pasta. Create a weird food; offer it for a limited (or extended) period of time and gain exposure through word of mouth and social media. For food businesses looking to gain brand value, using your creativity to come up with fad foods is your answer.