Olive Garden teased social media users with a mysterious countdown that eventually revealed a social media scavenger hunt. Carb-hungry fans can follow the clues across social media for a chance to win 52 weeks of free pasta.
On Monday, Olive Garden shared a countdown through Twitter and Instagram Stories. The microsite read, “If you thought unlimited breadsticks were big…” The post was accompanied by photos on Instagram and Facebook of a folder labeled “Project P.A.S.T.A.S.: Top Secret.” Users were left to speculate what the restaurant was going to reveal, offering guesses from endless Sangria to changing its name to Burger Garden—a stab at IHOP’s recent campaign.
Olive Garden kept the conversation going with Instagram Stories that quoted some of its favorite responses with screenshots, responses and emoji.
When the countdown ended Wednesday morning, the microsite revealed a series of puzzles and an announcement that Olive Garden would give away 10 Annual Pasta Passes through social media. The passes would entitle cardholders to 52 weeks’ worth of never-ending pasta bowls—normally purchased for $300 each.
Each of the 10 puzzles, when solved, will lead hungry sleuths to a social media profile on Instagram, Twitter or a Group on Facebook. Once located, the entrant must be the first to send a DM saying, “Pasta Pass Please” to win.
The puzzles range in difficulty from a Google search (Olive Garden’s first address) to wordplay, tracking down the fan club of a food critic and solving a 12-part crossword puzzle.
Olive Garden holds its neverending pasta bowl each year but decided to extend the promotion for a limited number of fans. Five years ago, the brand offered 1,000 Annual Pasta Passes for $300 each—offering endless bowls of pasta for 52 weeks. The passes quickly sell out each year, so the scavenger hunt allows 10 more fans the chance to participate.
Scavenger hunts have proven to be an effective way of engaging consumers around a product launch or event. Brands like Oreo, Tomb Raider, Adidas, Delta Airlines and Bloomingdales have all launched social and/or mobile scavenger hunts with the promise of rewards or contest entries. These campaigns frequently use augmented reality on Snapchat, but can also include hidden objects in the real world or puzzles that must be located and solved.