The success of “Eat out to help out” and what we can learn from it.

  • The success of “Eat out to help out” in economic terms goes to show that promotions really do work.

Just call me Mystic Meg! In my previous blog in June I wrote that “Pubs and restaurants will have to use compelling promotions to … get people back through the doors”. Less than a month later, Rishi Sunak was standing in the House of Commons announcing a government-backed promotion to give consumers 50% off their meals from Monday-Wednesday in August.

Perhaps Rishi was inspired by our biannual partnership with D&D, which has been running for over a decade now – or perhaps the government has acknowledged that consumers need incentivising to return to their “normal” behaviours.

The scheme has been incredibly successful, with HMRC reporting that they received in excess of 10.5 million claims under the scheme in the first week. This has had a knock on effect for our much-suffering high streets as they experienced an increase in footfall of around 19% compared to the previous week.

Encouraging readers into store rather than online with incentives isn’t a new concept, as any specialist in shopper marketing will tell you, but I can’t help but notice a slight increase in this tactic through my personal interactions with brands.

The much-loved Clinique bonus time, where buying two products gets you a gift with purchase full of miniatures, is currently running with John Lewis. If I go into store, I can choose any two products and claim my goodies. If I wish to shop online, I will be restricted to buying a bundle of certain products before I can claim my gift. John Lewis want to tempt me in-store by offering me free rein over my cosmetics choice in the hope that I wander through and my basket suddenly is a little more expensive than I had planned. Will it work? Definitely, especially because John Lewis have air conditioning!

Of course, it’s not just the high street who could take a leaf out of the Chancellor’s book. With half of people planning to fly less after lockdown and uncertainty around isolation after travelling abroad, airlines and tourist boards will need to look at how to tempt people away from Cornwall to the Costa del Sol. As restrictions are changing all the time, consumers will also look favourably on the brands who give them flexibility to amend their plans – good customer service has never been more important.

Closer to home, what’s on the horizon for our beloved cultural institutions? This week, many venues were lit up in red to highlight the crisis facing the industry. The summer months mean some outdoor performances can take place, such as the Evening Standard Theatre Award-winning Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Despite this, many productions have confirmed they won’t be reopening until Spring 2021, so will they need to look at running promotions to fill seats?

Given that government ministers generally haven’t had the Arts at the top of their priority list, it seems unlikely that they’ll be open to funding half price theatre tickets in the same way that restaurants, pubs and cafes have benefitted from. It will be left to venues and producers to decide how much of an incentive they can offer audiences to get them back through their doors.

The success of “Eat out to help out” in economic terms goes to show that promotions really do work. Consumer behaviour can be incentivised and we know that people are on the hunt for deals – Google Trends shows that people looking for “coupon” is at its highest point for five years. As I’m reliably informed by our excellent data team, the number of search instances for “voucher” usually peak each year around Christmas starting in October and have been decreasing YoY since 2016. However, for the first time in the last 5 years search instances have seen a peak earlier in the year between June and July, with the peak larger than the last 3 Christmases. Brands would do well to acknowledge this in the marketing for the rest of the year – a promotion is for survival, not just for Christmas.

If you want to find out more about how you can attract the attention of our audience through the power of promotions, then contact

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