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Marketing and Design Lessons from Junkmail: Fast Food

Jake Gibbs | December 31, 2015 

Before you throw away the seemingly endless stream of unsolicited offers you get in your mailbox on a daily basis, you may be surprised at the marketing and design lessons you can learn from these arrivals. Admittedly, sending unsolicited, unsegmented offers is definitely not a best practice to reach or engage customers, but in this junkmail series, we’ll look at how many companies are communicating offers and messaging, for better or worse.

Let’s kick things off with 5 offers from fast food companies that I received in my mailbox yesterday to see what marketing and design lessons we can learn.

Dunkin’ Donuts


Design lessons: First, this ad has excellent hierarchy. It has 4 main areas: The main smoothie offer, the coupons, the orange banner on the right, and the pink loyalty section. The ad is easy to digest (no pun intended!) visually and guides the eye right where it needs to go. Second, the use of color is excellent. Pink and orange help divide the main sections, as well as bring attention to the coupon discount amounts.

Marketing lessons: When you think Dunkin’ Donuts, you think donuts! But notice how this ad doesn’t make donuts the focus! They are trying to expand their product line and become a breakfast destination, which takes them from being a niche donut destination to a full-scale breakfast option. From breakfast sandwiches and bagels to smoothies, they are trying to appeal to a wider audience. Also, notice how their headline “Feel Good Choices. 260 Calories or Less.” makes an appeal to a health-conscious consumer group.

Captain D’s


Design lessons: Notice how simple this ad is? Simplicity is beautiful in design, especially when you only have a few seconds to get attention and interest. Instead of cramming tons of offers into one ad, Captain D’s goes with a huge, simple headline, a logo, and 3 meal examples. It is about as simple of an ad as you can get. Next, texture is used well. From the headline grittiness to the gradients and drop shadows, texture makes the ad much more interesting. Lastly, notice the use of empty space to declutter the ad. Having empty space allows the eye to easily navigate the ad and feel less intimidated reading it.

Marketing lessons: This is a price appeal. It seems like $5 in fast food is the magic number consumers feel comfortable paying. The $4.99 price offer is enhanced by the amount of food you get for the price! Those plates look full! In other words, the customer is going to get great value for what they spend.



Design lessons: The delicious meal takes center stage in this ad. Instead of having many images with many meals, they decide to have one meal, in all it’s scrumptious beauty, dominating the design as the background. It gets you hungry and gets you interested in reading the rest of the ad. Job accomplished! Next, notice the use of white. Usually color is used to grab attention, but in this case they use white text for the headline and the coupon offers. White was a good choice because it allows the colorful meal image to remain dominant while still allowing the text to stand out and be readable. The only downside to this design is that it feels a little cluttered and hard to see how the various element go together. Perhaps simplifying or consolidating different elements would have been wise.

Marketing lessons: We all love something new. This holds true in movies, music, and all sorts of other areas. This ad creates some intrigue with their new “Southern Inspired Menu”. Not only does it create some curiosity, but it turns that curiosity into action with two 20% off coupons. In other words, they combine a strong price incentive with an already interesting newness factor. Lastly, notice the QR code for smart phones. This adds a layer of interactivity to where customers can learn more by scanning.



Design lessons: Consistency in layout makes this ad work. Every coupon follows the same pattern, helping the reader easily find what they are looking for. Also, the hierarchy is well-done, with the main offer and headline at the top and the sub-offers at the bottom. Font size is used to help the reader go from price to type of food to coupon details and disclaimers.

Marketing lessons: Hardee’s is known for it’s risqué, often pushing-the-line ads appealing to men. This print ad, on the other hand, is rather traditional for fast food. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to try completely different approaches in your marketing. Try some conservative things and some outside-the-box things. Not all marketing messages have to follow the same tone or strategy. Don’t be afraid to mix things up.



Design lessons: The color palate of this ad is beautiful. Notice how the entire ad feels cohesive. From the golds and the burn shades of red and orange to the tans and white, the color selection is perfect. Each color has a purpose in helping establish the hierarchy and visual interest of the ad. Secondly, notice the good use of font type. The headline and price values have a fun, kind of quirky font, while the rest of the ad uses a more conservative, yet still interesting font to convey the offer details. Lastly, just like O’Charley’s, this ad uses compelling imagery to remain the main focal point, driving interest in the rest of the ad.

Marketing lessons: Popeyes is promoting a more niche type of chicken. Not everyone is going to like spicy chicken wings, but those that do will definitely love this price offer as well as the pepper ranch sauce. In other words, this ad appeals mainly to a niche audience, while the smaller coupon offers appeal to a wider audience. The lesson? Target some messaging to segments of your consumers based on what makes them different from the rest of your audience.

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Jake Gibbs | Design Specialist

Jake Gibbs is a Design Specialist at ListEngage and an expert at designing and building elegant, cross-platform compatible, mobile responsive emails and landing pages on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From brainstorming and ideation to polishing the final product, he loves the creative process. Jake has worked with more than 60 clients since joining ListEngage in 2014. Some of his projects have included L’Oreal, Vanguard, Carhartt, Harvard Business School, RCI/Wyndham, Huggies, and Planet Fitness.