Shmear perfection: An Einstein Bros. Bagels case study

Sometimes it takes a lot more than simply becoming a fan on Facebook to truly realize a company’s motive.

What American bakery chain comes to mind when you hear the word “bagel?” It’s no surprise if you thought of Einstein Bros. Bagels. Now what comes to mind when you hear the word “promotion?” Moving up in the workplace? Sure, but not where I was going. Think. Think harder. Free stuff? Just the answer I was looking for! Perfect.

What sort of perks do consumers look for when they visit a company’s social networking site? A personal connection with the brand? Maybe. It’s hard to measure product satisfaction when you simply click the “Like” button at the top of a Facebook page. A connection with other fans or consumers of the brand? Again, maybe. Although you may not know these people, it can be somewhat satisfying to know that there are others out there who possess similar tastes and interests. That’s the whole point of social networking — to engage with an online audience to discuss topics within particular areas of interest — Right? Underneath it all, however, there’s always that theme of the most frequently asked subconscious question:

“What’s in it for me?”

This is where we come back to the free stuff. Goodies for everyone who becomes a fan of Einstein on Facebook!

Einstein Bros. launched its Facebook page in 2009. It took a few months for the renowned bagel company to reach just under 5,000 fans. At this time, the page was nothing special. Updates were mundane and there was not a whole lot of conversation taking place on the wall. The Chief Concept Officer (CCO) James O’Reilly figured that in order to build the brand’s following, the company must take better advantage of social media. O’Reilly wanted to grow the company’s Facebook presence. Creative Alliance, Einstein’s digital marketing agency, suggested that the company utilize the page to increase its consumer connections on Facebook, a popular platform with the company’s target audience.

We came up with the idea of a direct offer to consumers that would push them into the store, while at the same time attempting to build a community of fans to solicit feedback about the brand and gather their opinions.


The folks at Einstein came up with the idea of offering printable coupons for a free bagel and cream cheese “shmear” for existing and new Facebook fans. At the beginning, the employees working on this project were anxious and perhaps somewhat skeptic. When they launched the promo campaign on January 25, 2010, Einstein saw huge numbers that proved the promotion to be successful. The company was able to multiply its online fan base by 120 times its starting amount.  Following the campaign, participating Einstein bakeries had their best week in sales of the entire year 2010.

I am proud to say that I partook in this campaign. I noticed on my sidebar that tons of my friends all of a sudden became fans of Einstein Bros. on Facebook, so I decided to see what all the hype was about. “Einsten Bros.?” I thought, “I occasionally go there with my parents, but I didn’t think it was that good! Something spectacular must be going on over there.” I went to the page an the first thing I saw was the word “F-R-E-E.” Instinctively, I clicked the “Like” button, printed my coupon, and headed over to Einstein that week. There was a long line that almost went out the door. I’ll have to admit that it was totally worth the wait.

Key results of Einstein’s coupon promotional campaign only enhance the support of this process:

  • Before the campaign began in January 2010, Einstein Bros. only had 5,000 fans of its page on Facebook. At the end of the week during which the campaign was launched, there was a 1,000% increase in its number of fans. The company now had over 50,000 fans who enjoyed a free bagel.
  • One day later, the number of fans was multiplied by 6, increasing to 300,000 in 24 hours.
  • As months came along, Einstein continued to make offered to its Facebook fans. They used geo-targeting to reach out to those who were eligible for offers in specific stores. The fan base eventually grew to a whopping 600,000. Einstein Bros. currently serves nearly 630,000 Facebook users.

This goes to show that customer satisfaction can be challenging, but if strategies are planned out correctly and if companies utilize their resources efficiently (e.g., social media), great things can happen for a brand. Einstein Bros. Bagels marketed their efforts towards a very successful advertising campaign that boomed sales and put smiles on hundreds of thousands of hungry people’s faces.

Now that’s what I call “Darn good” marketing!

  1. Great post, Ceara! Einstein’s success with this promotion is very impressive. Not only did they see a large increase in Facebook fans, but also in sales. The difficult part is figuring out how to keep up the fan engagement as well as the sales now that the promotion is over. I’d be interested to learn what they have planned for future social media strategies – or if they’ll just repeat the same promotion and cross their fingers that they see similar success.

  2. At first, I think a lot of companies struggle with how to get prospective customers to their social media sites. As your case study on Einstein Bagels proves, the most effective way to see results fast is to offer some sort of free item or service. Everyone loves free stuff – and Einstein’s rapid increase in sales and FB fans proves this.

    I also think that it will be interesting to see if Einstein Bagels does any further offers along the same lines. People may have joined the page because they wanted free bagels, but in order to make the FB page truly successful, Einstein needs to find a way to keep customers engaged.

    • irenephilomena
    • April 5th, 2011

    This is a testimony to what success can be created in engaging people with rewards involved. I think that people are always enticed with free products. Einstein Bagels is wise in using free bagels as incentives and the results show you cant go wrong in rewarding customers.I agree with Samantha and would like to know what future decisions will be made to continue this success.

  3. First of all Ceara, your blog/wiki blows mine out of the water. Great job! As for the post, Einstein Bagels really knows what they are doing. Facebook is so important in word of mouth referrals. Having a strong presence there is a great asset. Continued fan involvement is the issue, but I believe the longterm ROI on that will be amazing!

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