Get Savage news, trends and information.

Sign Up Now



Raise Awareness for Your Differentiator with Promotions

Posted on Categories BrandonomicsTags

A Houston classic fast food chain upgrades its image with a smart, tasty promotion. Robin Tooms discusses the brand refresh with Michelle Holmes, director of marketing for James Coney Island.

Robin: Hello, and welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies. I’m Robin Tooms, Vice President of Strategy at Savage Brands. And my guest today is Michelle Holmes, Director of Marketing at James Coney Island. Michelle, welcome back to Brandonomics.

Michelle: Thanks, Robin.

Robin: I know one of the goals that you’ve been talking with us about on James Coney Island’s brand refresh is really better positioning your menu and kind of this idea that part of the brand is how great the menu is, and how it’s really kind of one step above fast food. So what have you all been doing to bring greater awareness around that?

Michelle: You’re right, Robin. The greater part of the last three years we’ve really spent a lot of time expanding our menu, bringing in more gourmet style burgers, fresh salads. And Darrin Straughan, our President, really wanted to do something that would give validity to the quality of our food and bring awareness that we’ve got an expanded menu. And he came up with probably the best promotion that we’ve done in the company history, which was the Chef and Show Dogs promotion.

So over the last several years we’ve seen different restaurants come up with their designer dogs, hot dogs, so we thought we would kind of take a different approach to that and put a fun spin on it. And what we did is we went out to six of Houston’s pretty well known chefs and approached them with this idea that we wanted them to come up with their ultimate idea of a hot dog. So we featured each chef once a month with their hot dog in all 21 locations, and we also tied in a community aspect of that by donating $1,000.00 to the chef’s charity of choice. So it was kind of a win/win for everyone involved, and a super fun promotion.

Robin: Yeah. So, I love the campaign by the way.

Michelle: Thank you.

Robin: What kind of results did you all really directly see out of that?

Michelle: We had phenomenal results, and really results we didn’t expect to see. One of the great things was we would be in the restaurants when we were rolling out some of these new hot dogs, and we would talk to the customers. Many of them said they hadn’t been in James Coney Island in a very long time, that they were there specifically for the promotion – they either were following a certain chef or all of the chefs – and they even mentioned that they didn’t realize we had such a broad variety of items on our menu and that they would definitely be coming back.

So that was exactly what we were looking for and wanted to accomplish in the promotion.

The second thing we got was invaluable press and media response from it. We were featured on different TV and radio stations – Channel 11, Channel 13. I think Fox 26 News did a morning segment with us. We were in The Houston Chronicle and various different food blogs, and social media channels, again raising the awareness and really given validity with another whole market out there of who we are and what we’re capable of doing.

Robin: Yeah. Awareness goal achieved.

Michelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Robin: All right, well thank you for showing, Michelle.

Michelle: Thanks.

Robin: This has been another edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategy.


A Houston icon since 1923, James Coney Island has a long history of serving the best hot dogs in the city. Striving to offer service above and beyond the average quick-service dining establishments, the restaurants now offer a wide variety of food off the grill and the same great atmosphere it’s had since the Papadakis brothers founded it.

Icon Purpose Red

If you’re interested in knowing more about how purposeful companies attract the best employees, build loyal relationships with customers, and differentiate themselves from the competition, then let’s start a conversation.