Carefully Crafted on December 08

Outback Steakhouse Uses "Surprise & Delight" to Bridge the Digital Divide

Remember when Morton’s delivered a steak to Peter Shankman at the airport? Peter called that the “greatest customer service story ever told.” It was a perfect example of the value of listening and responding to social media. Will Morton’s deliver steak to every person who requests one via Twitter? Of course not. Peter Shankman has a massive following and spends a lot of money at their restaurants.

While Morton’s hit a homerun with that special delivery, these kinds of “surprise and delight” stunts don’t have be limited to so-called A-listers. Providing remarkable experiences to a handful of “regular” users can garner a lot of goodwill and positive outcomes.

Outback Steakhouse is an example of a brand who sees the value in the “magic middle.” Let me tell you a story about Dave Parsons, a sports information director at a small university in Central Ohio. Dave has just over 1,000 followers on Twitter, recently began blogging about his love of running. He’s well connected — and a super nice guy! — but he doesn’t have the pure reach of someone like Peter (who has 1000,000+ Twitter followers). But, Dave is an incredibly loyal Outback customer. He tweets at them — and about them — fairly often. Knowing this, Outback decided to surprise him for his 40th birthday. You can read Dave’s story (and watch video as the surprise unfolds). When Dave received his package, he was beyond excited to see that Outback gave him a gift certificate for a special birthday dinner, as well as 40 wrapped boxes — gifts that Dave could disperse among his friends, co-workers, his local mayor, and other important people in his life.

It couldn’t have cost Outback much to pull this off. And, in doing so, they converted a customer-for-life in Dave, plus directly touched 40 other people. Plus, thanks to social media, the story has been shared, tweeted, and Facebooked — multiplying the reach of the story beyond Dave and his 40 recipients.

By creating a special experience for a loyal, vocal customer, Outback borrowed a page from Morton’s, but added their own twist, implementing a stunt targeted at the “magic middle.” The result? Goodwill, positive online conversation, and  restaurant sales that will more than pay for the minimal time and expense required to pull off this kind of activity.


  1. […] making this super fan a brand rock star for the day, Outback deepened a key relationship and expanded its online footprint by sparking new conversations around the birthday […]

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