What's With Cheesecake And Dr. Phil?

Cheesecake Factory

No, it's not a scandal. But it's good news for The Cheesecake Factory (TCF).

During his Friday show, Dr. Phil mentioned one of the novel online involvement devices the restaurant chain cooked up for Valentine's Day.

The doctor reported that he and his wife Robin each took TCF's five-question "cheesecake compatibility" quiz, designed to match the user with his or her perfect cheesecake flavor from among the 30 offered by TCF. The quiz generates your personal flavor and a horoscope-like personality description tying in with the flavor ("You know what it means to be wonderfully layered, which is why this cheesecake is your perfect match...")

The application can also be used to fill out the quiz on behalf of a loved one, in which case it can then be sent as an email greeting that TCF has dubbed an "e-slice."



TCF also created a "What's Your Flavor?" contest ... and this one was featured on "Entertainment Tonight" last week. The contest invites consumers to use a "virtual cheesecake creator" to submit their fantasy cheesecake flavor (choosing from ingredients' pull-down menus) and watch it being "baked" online, layer by layer.

The submissions can be accompanied by a video, song, poem or photo that creatively expresses the entrants' passion for their cheesecake creation--elements designed to encourage viral activity, TCF SVP/CMO Mark Mears tells Marketing Daily. Both applications were created by the Razor agency in Dallas.

The winner of the contest, running from Jan. 28 to Feb. 28, will have the cheesecake creation named in his or her honor, and receive a trip for two to the "original" Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills, Calif. The winning flavor will be featured on TCF's menu for a year, and the chain will donate 25 cents of every slice of that flavor purchased during that period to Feeding America, the national food bank network.

The icing on the cake: An in-store promotion that ran Jan. 29 through Feb. 14 in which TCF distributed some 2 million cards--each good for a free slice of cheesecake for every $30 spent in the restaurant between Feb. 18 and March 31. Customers each received two cards (packaged in a Valentine's Day card)--one for themselves and one for a friend.

The card promotion aims to turn TCF customers into "advocates and evangelists" for the 30-year-old chain, which is focused on adding value rather than discounting, says Mears.

The create-a-cake contest and compatibility quiz have each attracted "hundreds of thousands" of participants in their two weeks online, according to Mears. In addition to the PR (by L.A.-based Murphy O'Brien) that snagged the two TV plugs and radio exposure from DJ's, traffic-drivers included ads on food-related sites like and, paid search and promotions to the chain's email database. The registrations required to use the two applications will of course help build that database.

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