Skip to main content

TechBytes: Two Pros and Three Cons of TGI Friday’s ‘Mobile Mistletoe’ Promotion


TGI Fridays has been getting a lot of attention for its holiday “Mobile Mistletoe” promotion, and not all of it has been for the right reasons. While Mobile Mistletoe is a great concept in omnichannel marketing and customer engagement, some flaws in the actual execution suggest TGI Fridays should have spent more time refining it before launch.

Basically, a remote control drone hovers over the heads of seated couples and awards them gift cards if they kiss. Customers can also win prizes by posting photos of themselves kissing under the mistletoe with the hashtag #happyfridayholiday. The promotion offers some interesting lessons, so let’s review two pros and three cons of Mobile Mistletoe:

Pro #1 – Innovative Disruption

TGI Friday’s “Mobile Mistletoe” drone program is exactly the kind of disruptive, outside-the-box omnichannel promotion that can attract and delight even the most cyber-jaded of consumers. In all the discussion of how drones will disrupt retail, their utility as a marketing tool never got any significant mention. “Mobile Mistletoe” takes the proven customer engagement tool of public kissing (check out the response to the “Kiss Cam” at any NBA game if you doubt its appeal) and gives it an unexpected technological spin. This might be the best pure concept TGI Fridays has had since (allegedly) inventing the singles bar.

Pro #2 – Social Engagement

TGI Fridays was smart enough to realize that in today’s omnichannel retail environment, limiting a promotion to customers in physical stores is simply not an option. While posting a photo of a smooch under the mistletoe is less novel than kissing under a drone, it still significantly extends the reach and potential return of Mobile Mistletoe.

Con #1 – Safety

A local newspaper journalist doing a feature story on the promotion in a Brooklyn TGI Fridays location reportedly suffered lacerations to her nose and chin when the propeller blades of an errant drone struck her face. A remote control object that has to navigate the tight spaces of a casual dining restaurant poses enough safety concerns without adding the potential danger of spinning blades.

Perhaps automated robots, which have the capability to navigate themselves through crowds and do not usually have sharp spinning attachments, would have been a better choice as a delivery mechanism for the promotion.

Con #2 – Customer Comfort

Putting possible safety risks aside, hovering objects with whirling blades may pose a nuisance to customers who simply came to enjoy a relaxing meal. A drone by its very nature is distracting and may prove especially bothersome to diners seated next to the happy couple chosen to receive a reward for kissing. Again, the concept is great, but the delivery of the promotion was not fully thought out.

Con #3 – Lack of Contingency Planning

TGI Fridays was venturing into the great unknown with its drone-based marketing program, and should have done some contingency planning in case things went awry. However, the company’s response to the Brooklyn injury incident was to simply issue a public statement saying customers are not allowed to touch the drones and it didn’t expect people to stop visiting TGI Fridays as a result.

Frankly, one injury is too many, especially considering that another could occur and be far more serious. TGI Fridays should have created a backup plan, such as having employees with mobile devices replace drones in the event of malfunction, or even just making the remainder of the promotion social-only. Nothing beats a great concept, except great execution.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds