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Pret-a-Manger created a lot of buzz on social media in 2015 with its mysterious and seemingly-unofficial free coffee giveaways.
If you were a regular at a particular store, or if a barista simply liked your face, you may have received a free coffee.
Many people on Twitter took this pretty seriously, seeing the gesture as affirmation of their good looks or friendly manner (see tweets below).
Well, now Pret is making this official and has added a twist that could turn out to be the most genius piece of marketing strategy of the year.
Pret has decided to make this policy official by giving out 120,000 free coffees in special 'make someone smile' sleeves.
The brand has also ratcheted up the spirit of good will by allowing coffee winners to, in turn, pass on their special coffee sleeve to an unsuspecting member of the public who will themselves be entitled to a free coffee.
It's a masterful strategic move that should ensure Pret's 2015 buzz continues into 2016.
In a sector where loyalty is increasingly important yet many have been confused by the influx of technology (consolidated loyalty apps, QR codes etc.), Pret seems to understand that loyalty is about creating enjoyable and interesting interactions with the customer, not merely collecting tokens.
A couple of tweets that adequately describe the cultural success of Pret's free coffee scheme to date.
Has @Pret stopped giving free coffee or have i got ugly?— Lizzy Collier (@lizzycollier) January 16, 2016
Got a free Pret coffee today. Have finally made it.— Chemmie Squier (@chemsquier) January 11, 2016
Pret's new Make Someone Smile free-coffee sleeves.
Pret's social success
Pret has had a lot of successful brand exposure through social media.
In December we covered its annual Christmas sandwich promotion (here are five reasons we liked it), which cleverly mixed strong and simple promoted social posts, with teaser giveaways and a countdown.
Already this year, a post from Pret CEO Clive Schlee, detailing five insights from 15 years of Pret in America, has shown how the all-conquering sandwich shop is continuing to forge an open and friendly tone online as well as in store.
Pret has had some criticism in the past for some of the protocol behind its famously warm customer service (some calling it 'emotional labour', others 'smiley culture') and the lack of a living wage (the business claims to be 'close' to the living wage once benefits are taken into account e.g. food).
However, with Pret's consumate understanding of what its customers want, I can't see its success stalling any time yet.