Carl's Jr. and Hardee's Lead The Way In Interactive iPhone Check-In Social Rewards

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Although I would rather die in a pit, bitten by rats and my flesh taken by necrosis than eat at Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr, you have to admit that they do have a compelling social media marketing plan. CKE Restaurants, owners of Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s and famous for making food that is less popular than McDonalds, have created a location-based “coupon game” that allows you to spin a wheel to win valuable food prizes and potentially life-saving antibiotics for after the meal.

Here’s what Brad Haley, marketing head of CKE, has to say:

“In a nutshell, what we’re doing is dragging the antiquated punch-card type of loyalty programs into the 21st century,” said Brad Haley, executive vice president of marketing for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. “We are not only offering a GPS-driven check-in app to keep track of customer visits digitally, but we are offering guaranteed rewards, a restaurant locator, a social media interface, streaming videos, menus, nutritional information and more.”

Considering the closest Burger King ever got to a digital plan was Subservient Chicken, this is pretty heady stuff for the fast food industry.

The app works on iOS and Android and features GPS-based check-ins. When you check in four times you get to spin the Wheel of Awesome and win prizes including discounted and free menu items. As customers return again and again to CKE’s trough of sadness they are able to digitally record each visit (for the coroner’s report) and the restaurants get interesting marketing data and are able to push mobile advertisements (for lap band installations and cut-rate cremations, for example). Don’t live near a Carl’s Jr or Hardee’s? Don’t worry! You can spam your Facebook with the Wheel of Awesome!

While I’m being a bit facetious here (I honestly wouldn’t eat at these places if you paid me, app or no) the company has been making great headway in the social/viral space, depending on the kindness of irony-lovers and “influencers” to face-down the fast food Big Four. Whatever the outcome, it’s a bold move in the right direction, at least where online marketing is concerned.

Happy Star Rewards, a combined location- and rewards-based check-in app, ensures every user is a winner

12.27.2010– CARPINTERIA, Calif. – December 27, 2010 – CKE Restaurants, Inc., parent company of Carl’s Jr.® and Hardee’s® restaurants, announced the launch of Happy Star Rewards™, a GPS-enabled loyalty program that rewards users for checking in at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s locations across the U.S. The application, available for iPhone and Android smart phones, combines location-based check-in technology with rewards, making it the first of its kind for the fast food industry.

“In a nutshell, what we’re doing is dragging the antiquated punch-card type of loyalty programs into the 21st century,” said Brad Haley, executive vice president of marketing for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. “We are not only offering a GPS-driven check-in app to keep track of customer visits digitally, but we are offering guaranteed rewards, a restaurant locator, a social media interface, streaming videos, menus, nutritional information and more. So, unwrap those new shiny phones you just got for the holidays, download the free Happy Star Rewards app from iTunes or the Android Market, and start earning free stuff today.”

Users who download the app, available on the iTunes App Store or Android Market, can visit any Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s location and check in to start earning rewards immediately. To use the app, a guest simply visits a Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s restaurant and checks in. The first check-in and every subsequent fourth check-in earns the user a spin on The Wheel of Awesome™, a unique Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s rewards application already present on both brands’ Facebook pages. Once the wheel has been activated, users spin it with their finger for a chance to win discounted and free menu items, branded gift cards, prizes and merchandise from participating partners.

Partner prizes currently include Sony electronics and movie tickets to the upcoming film The Green Hornet™. These partners and prizes will be updated throughout the year. When a user checks in but has not earned a wheel spin, they can receive a coupon for a currently featured item, such as $1 off Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders™. Reward offers increase in value with the frequency of use. The more a user checks in using the app, the higher value offers they will be able to receive on The Wheel of Awesome.

After a user has received a coupon, they have the option to save the coupon for seven days, or redeem the coupon immediately either in-store or at the drive-thru. If the user selects the “redeem” button, they have 30 minutes to present the coupon displayed on the screen to a cashier. After presenting the coupon, users press “done” to complete the process. Then they have the option to share the experience with friends by posting on Facebook and Twitter. For non-coupon prizes, the user is prompted to enter additional information in order to set up delivery of the prize. Check-ins are limited to a maximum of three per day and are also limited to one per daypart (breakfast 5:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., lunch 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. and dinner/late night 5 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.). Additionally, fans now have the option to transfer coupons from The Wheel of Awesome app on Facebook directly to their mobile phone to redeem.

Happy Star Rewards also integrates with all existing Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s digital communities — offering the same look and feel of the brands’ Facebook pages, streaming YouTube videos, and providing a real-time content feed from Facebook and Twitter streams. Users can also cross-post their location check-in on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare all from the application.

“The app builds on CKE Restaurant’s community approach to social media,” said Glenn Cole, chief creative officer at 72andSunny, CKE’s digital agency of record and the creator of the app. “We’ve seen great growth in the community, and now boast a combined 1 million fans on Facebook. Whether a user is on their smart phone, or sitting at their home computer, their interaction with the Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s brand remains accessible wherever and whenever they want.”

Los Angeles-based 72andSunny worked with CKE Restaurants to conceive, develop and execute the app completely in-house, allowing for an industry-first advantage in the highly competitive category of fast food apps. This allows for customized tailoring as needed moving forward.

For the most up-to-date information about Happy Star Rewards, download the application to your iPhone or Android phone at http://www.happystarrewards.com. Stay tuned to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/carlsjr and http://www.facebook.com/hardees) and Twitter feeds (www.twitter.com/carlsjr and http://www.twitter/hardees) for announcements.

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