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Barclaycard’s free lunch brings NFC to the masses

By Charlotte Amos

May 30, 2012 | 4 min read

The thought of getting anything for free sends most of us into a frenzy of excitement, admittedly often closely followed by a sinking feeling of cynicism when we realise there’s probably a catch. The beauty of Barclaycard’s latest promotion, however, is that there was no catch – just free lunch.

Barclaycard had the brilliant idea of promoting ‘Pay Tag’, its new near field communication (NFC) mobile sticker, by offering workers and passers-by around London a free lunch yesterday, much to the enthusiasm of office workers in the area. The idea was easy and fun: the first 10,000 people to take up the offer at retail outlets such as

EAT, Pret a Manger and WHSmith around Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street and Oxford Street got a free lunch up to the value of £5.

The news spread quickly and saw whole offices flocking to get their free lunch. The promotional staff outside EAT, donned in their ‘Lunch on Us’ t-shirts, were stopping people in the street to get them to come in store and take advantage of the offer. Most people breezed past ignoring them, until I saw one woman stop to say “no thank you”, then as soon as she heard the words ‘free lunch’, she was all ears and smiles.

The promoters walked the customers into the outlet and let them loose to choose whatever they wanted, provided it amounted to no more than £5. Then they proceeded to the till with them to pay and demonstrated how the ‘Pay Tag’ worked. The choice factor was a great opportunity for the retailers, as customers had the freedom to choose something they might not ordinarily select if trying to keep their lunch time spend to a minimum. When choosing my free lunch, I was much more aware of the range of products on offer as a result.

Teaming up with retailers not only gave Barclaycard the perfect platform to showcase the easy practicality of Pay Tag, it also served to educate customers about which retailers are offering contactless payment (I personally had no idea that EAT offers NFC). Admittedly, most people were more excited about the idea of getting a free lunch rather than learning more about Pay Tag, but it was a fun and interactive way to raise awareness of the product and also demystify NFC.

Barclaycard also did a great job of integrating its promotional activity with social media to extend the reach of the promotion, posting pictures of happy free-lunchers on Twitter and responding speedily to people’s questions about the promotion. Not only did the promotion generate a lot of talk on the street but #freelunch also trended on Twitter for part of the morning - something most brands strive for but rarely achieve. In addition, information about where you could get your free lunch was posted on Facebook, Facebook, where Barclaycard is also running a competition to win free lunch for a year. Yum.

Overall, it was simply a great idea and a good example of how, by working together, brands and retailers can engage consumers on a broader scale.

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