Case Study: Urbanspoon VIP Spoon Program

Client: Urbanspoon


February 26- March 9, 2014


Urbanspoon is a leading restaurant discovery app helping millions of consumers figure out where to dine and what to eat. The company had identified SXSWi 2014 as a venue to re-connect with early-adopter consumers and strengthen brand affinity, and staged a branded food truck, offering festivalgoers unique dishes and snacks throughout kick-off weekend. Urbanspoon’s agency-of-record, Dotted Line Communications (DLC) then applied its proven track record for creating meaningful SXSW activations to Urbanspoon’s marketing footprint, with a plan designed to generate social media engagement, mainstream media attention, and influencer awareness.

Strategy & Tactics:

Knowing the Urbanspoon food truck alone was unlikely to generate media coverage or attract time-crunched influencers in droves, DLC developed a VIP program and companion consumer Instagram contest dedicated to providing key influencers, and select attendees, with an exclusive pass to the very best food experiences in Austin.

20 VIPs (a mix of mainstream reporters and technology influencers with robust social media followings) were handpicked based on various criteria and mailed a physical Golden Spoon with a single phone number engraved on the handle. Once activated, this “key to the city” promised to unlock a number of perks tied to the local Austin food scene. The engraved number dialed direct to a personal concierge who could broker coveted restaurant reservations, facilitate delivery of food or drink to any location on demand, or wait in line for lunch pick up at local hot spots notorious for never-ending queues. To drive visible brand support and word-of-mouth effect, the VIPs were instructed to Instagram a picture of them with their spoon using the hashtag #spoonbomb, and encouraged to tag friends in their network also present at SXSW to extend VIP benefits (and Urbanspoon love!) across their social circles.

To ensure consumers weren’t left out of the fun, Urbanspoon simultaneously distributed a different version of the Golden Spoon at the food truck, as part of a consumer-focused #spoonbomb contest on Instagram, asking attendees to post pictures of their spoon for a chance to win prizes such as gift cards and reservations to beloved (and hard to get into) local restaurants.


Several weeks before the festival, DLC engaged a number of influencers to test interest and potential participation in the program, before finalizing the list. DLC then sent mailers, complete with a menu of VIP Perks and instructions, as well as the Golden Spoons engraved with Urbanspoon’s logo and concierge phone number. All perks were vetted, determined and secured prior to SXSW, through direct outreach to restaurants to secure advance reservations, and an extended street team to ensure Urbanspoon could effectively deliver on-the-fly food requests at scale.


The overall strategy enabled Urbanspoon to meaningfully engage with multiple audiences during SXSW 2014.

Throughout the weekend, PR engaged a number of high-level press and influencers, including Robert Scoble, Ben Huh, Peter Shankman, Guy Kawasaki, Natalie Jarvey (The Hollywood Reporter), Nina Gregory (NPR) and others. And the engagement went deep: from Robert Scoble using the service to order pizza for 20 people to Guy Kawasaki nabbing a reservation at local hotspot, Olivia, the results drove the VIP participants to social media to rave about Urbanspoon and the concierge services. The effort even got the attention of Entertainment Tonight’s Brooke Anderson and BBC reporter LJ Rich. Additionally, Urbanspoon GM, Keela Robison, made connections with several key influencers, such as Peter Kafka of Recode and Ahmed Shiheb-Eldin of Huffington Post, with whom Robison conducted a segment for HuffPost Live.

The grassroots food truck effort exceeded goals, feeding 1,500 people during the entire weekend with diverse foodie mash-ups, from egg-and-bacon-topped maple cornbread waffles in the morning to afternoon snow cones. The overall campaign reached 18.5 million Twitter followers and greatly increased Urbanspoon’s social following across multiple platforms, including more than a 1,000 follower boost on Facebook and a 500 follower bump on Pinterest.

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