Mark McCulloch, founder of branding agency Supersonic Inc, gives his latest take on a marketing campaign by a prominent operator. This week he looks at Pret handing out iced drinks for free.

Pret is a class act, we all know that, but they also know how to hit the right tone at the right time. 

On 18 July, Pret announced they were going to give away free iced drinks the following day. This may not seem such a big idea, however it’s the last 15% of execution that is key in all the things Pret do. 

Having seen it from the inside I know how long in the creation and planning it would’ve taken, as, when Pret do something, boy do they do it in a world class way. So, what was so good about this campaign? Er, everything. 

They picked their time well (Friday), everyone is feeling good, they picked 10am-11am (smart as this is a shoulder period and creates extra visits). 

It wasn’t available in every Pret, but they can be forgiven for that, plus it didn’t hold them back from doing this, whereas a lot of other operators would explode at that thought or clog up their marketing apologies telling customers via small print about how, where and when you can get the offer. 

Keep it simple! It attracted a new Gen Z and Gen Y audience who can be very value led, for example I watched a vlog from the GOAT agency and the whole office stopped production and visited their local Pret en masse. One of the team commented that they would also pick up a few items while they were in shop. They knew it was a ruse but were totally okay with that. 

Not that Pret would be doing this out of some clinical sales tactic. In Pret, generosity rules and they expect nothing back but a thank you and the addition of another gazillion brand love points to their already overflowing vault of it. 

Pret launched and mainly drove the campaign via social (most noticeably on Twitter), they added a password for that customer interaction and ‘I’m in the club feel’. 

The hashtag of #icetomeetyou gave Pret a high chance of trending on Twitter, capturing the attention of millions for a low cost and a fun campaign. The sweetest thing of all is when a simple idea, executed on social alone, gets picked up by the mainstream press and that is exactly what happened. 

Every money saving site, red top and a few of the broadsheet titles pushed the fact that Pret were giving away free drinks. That is when you know you have truly made it. Very few brands would make the top new stories in The Sun et al for good news. 

The PR value on and offline must have been staggering, all from a bit of kindness, limited/no T&Cs and a thank you to customers new, current and lapsed. We talk about loyalty and how to get it, we are obsessed with points, swipe cards and apps, but perhaps we are all thinking about it in the wrong way.

Pret prove you don’t need a loyalty card or scheme. Just keep creating new products, keep your favourites as high quality as possible, have the best people serving them and give your customers one on the house now and again, plus do a few big thank yous to your customers and there you go. Easy right?

This will now be copied by many. But the impact won’t be the same. As someone once said: “If you do something first, it’s for the customers, if you do it second, it’s for you”.

Idea: 9/10

Effort vs Return: 10/10

Execution: 10/10

Impact: 9/10

Summary: 9/10. N-ice one, Pret.