Large advertising budgets can be a boon to companies looking to spread the word about their products, but they’re not always neccessary. This spring, a Puerto Rican-based taco chain found that a combination radio and mobile campaign increased sales by 21%.

The campaign, which cost under $50,000, focused on spreading word of mouth about the brand and getting people into the stores by offering free burritos via SMS. 

According to AdAge:

“The Taco Maker’s agency, BxP Marketing, created a character it called
Juan Maker, a gruff, mouthy guy with a thick accent, to make radio
appearances and chat with DJs about freebies. The appearances were
recorded live and then crafted into a series of 10 60-second spots that
ran in central Florida for six weeks and offered a free one-pound Maker
burrito to consumers who sent in a text as instructed by the
commercial.”

The campaign also had the benefit of being easily tracked. Gary Bentz, CEO of BxP Marketing, told QSR Magazine:

“Consumers opt-in by sending
a text to our SMS platform and in return they receive an offer for a
free burrito via their mobile phones. Once a customer redeems the text
message offer, the software provides TTM with a report that details
what radio station that customer was listening to, the daypart, and
which program they were listening to that prompted the customer to
respond to the offer. The trained staff at each TTM location has been
key in assisting customers with the promotion and up-selling.”

The Taco Maker received nearly 5,000 texts in response to their campaign and gave away
nearly 2,500 burritos — a response rate of about 50%. But customers that received free tacos then stayed to purchase food from The Taco Maker. The promotion resulted in same-store sales increases of 21% in the first quarter. And Taco Maker CEO Carlos Budet said that people liked the character of Juan Maker so much that they called the radio show asking to speak with him.

The Taco Maker has over 200 locations worldwide, but only 80 in the U.S. and brand recognition had been a problem for the chain. The stores were located in areas with high concentrations of Latinos, but consumers did not know the chain’s name and went elsewhere. The Taco Maker suspected that Florida residents would like their food if they just gave it a chance, and by using BxP’s non-traditional marketing strategy, they were learned that they were right.