McAlister’s Deli

How the quest to be “Tea Town USA” turned into a free-for-all

From Florida to Wyoming, from the U.P. to the Bayou and across all of its 232 restaurants, McAlister’s Deli is famous for great sandwiches, soups, salads and spuds.

But what really turns people from patrons into fanatics is the iced tea. People just can’t get enough – even though McAlister’s sells it in gallon jugs.

And when the folks at McAlister’s told us they wanted to use their “Free Tea Day” to drive more awareness (and oh yeah, sales), we were a step ahead of them.



Because our research showed that not only did people love McAlister’s for its tea, they were extremely passionate about the tea at their personal, local McAlister’s.

Everyone believed that their McAlister’s made the best tea – and they were adamant about it.

So we gave them the opportunity to put their loyalty where their mouths were. Literally.

“The Quest for Tea Town USA” pitted towns against each other for the right to be called “Tea Town USA” (the winning town also received a check from McAlister’s for local improvements).

We knew that McAlister’s “tea freaks” would jump at the chance to support their favorite restaurant – so we started with the media that would make that happen best – Facebook. “The Quest for Tea Town USA” was Facebook-centric, making heavy use of Facebook Places and an app that engaged fans, shared content, tracked results and built brand loyalty.



Once we got the ball rolling, we kept it up, with print, in-store point-of-purchase, earned media, word-of-mouth and a strong Twitter presence, which quickly turned “Tea Town” into Tea Mania – bringing fans and new customers in record numbers. At some locations, police had to be called in to direct traffic – and in some cases, news crews in competing cities were waging an all-out war.

Even better, same-store sales during the promotion were up by more than 25%. Sales across the chain increased by as much as 6%. And Facebook fans increased by more than 120%.

But perhaps best of all, our post-program analysis provided us with a tremendously rich data pool that not only resulted in 200% Facebook fan growth and extremely popular “unlockable badges” in year two, but also let us model future promotions and media spends and project future ROI.

That’s “return on investment” by the way, not “return on insan-i-tea”.

Key Results

  • Created a unique creative campaign based on insights into McAlister’s customers
  • Executed campaign effectively across multiple media platforms, from traditional to emerging, to reach all customers
  • Drove unprecedented success across the chain as reflected in sales as well as social media
  • Developed rich data from which future marketing insights and projections can be built
  • Experienced massive 200% Facebook fan growth
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