12 Types of Advertising Mediums | Brand Education for Restaurants

These days there are more ways than ever before to advertise. As a restaurant how do you know what’s right for you? Because there is not one perfect option out there, an integrated approach is recommended. Lets take a look at 12 types of advertising options that exist today and offer a brief overview of each advertising medium.

We all have to live with budgets. This list assumes that you don’t have a limitless budget and if you do… go crazy. If you don’t have unlimited marketing dollars create a strategy first, this will help you to better utilize your media and production dollars because they will go fast if you aren’t paying attention. 

Throwing all of your media dollars into one medium is highly dangerous.

  1. It is recommended to start with a budget for the calendar year and try and stretch those dollars out as long as you can. 
  2. Include tracking results as best you can. The more you know about what works best the better you can adjust your media mix.
  3. This is one reason digital advertising is taking market share from the traditional advertising budgets. Investing in a website and digital content has both short and long-term value. 


Well, if you have the money and lots of it why not use mass media. It’s not overly strategic or truly trackable (yet) but it still remains a favorite for the big brands to build awareness and pound away messaging. Television does remain a wonderful medium, when it is done right. Of course you not only have to pay for the production but the media as well.

BONUS TIP: Don’t do it if you can’t do it right. More brands damage themselves by letting local networks or cable providers produce spots. Poorly. 

Magazines produce nice quality photos, a nice way to show off food images for your restaurant brand.


I would say this remains the most popular form of advertising for restaurants. Now, I didn’t say this is the most effective, however it remains popular since it is easy to execute. Unfortunately, this too is not trackable and the majority of ads are ineffective. Newspapers and magazines have been working at great lengths to evolve and incorporate tracking (think QR codes) as well as creative ad units.

BONUS TIP: Less is more when it comes to copy. Keep in mind brand consistency. Try to avoid using the publication to design your ad, even when they offer to do it for free.


When was the last time a radio spot drove you to visit a restaurant? Local radio spots take the title for the worst advertising around. I hear more bad spots than I do decent ones. Sorry, but that is just one marketer’s opinion. With the popularity of satellite, iPods and cell phone usage who really listens to radio commercials?

BONUS TIP: If you choose radio, don’t over complicate the message. Keep it simple since you don’t have the audience’s full attention. It may be better to sponsor traffic reports or news updates. 


Billboard advertising remains a useful medium for restaurants. It is best when the message is concise, so keep the number of words to a minimum. Billboards can be helpful for directions, especially on highways and interstates.

BONUS TIP: Digital Boards are popular these days, they can be more cost effective since creative is easy, quick and more affordable to update.

Talk about creative. This is an Interactive Out-Of-Home Bus Shelter for Halls that features a dispenser that offered samples of two new flavors. Smart phone users could download information and vote for their favorite new flavor.


One of the more creative mediums, especially when creative teams and media teams work together to create traffic stopping advertising that play well with the surrounding environment.

This includes everything from:

•    Bus Benches/Shelters (transit media) •    Automobile & Building Wraps •    Graffiti •    Street Advertising

•    Wallscapes

BONUS TIP: Get creative with this medium. Make sure it’s relevant to your brand and don’t be afraid to make a splash to get noticed. 


Email clubs and loyalty programs are a wonderful way to stay in touch with customers, when a customer database is used correctly it can be one of the most cost effective communication vehicle available to restaurants.

BONUS TIP: Make sure that you provide value to your loyal customers. Do not abuse the relationship. Run specific offers available only to your email subscribers and try to avoid discounts all the time as it can devalue the brand. 

Direct Mail:

Although the cost per piece can be expansive especially with postage costs continuing to rise, direct mail like email can be very effective when partnered with a well maintained database. Purchased databases are useful since you can target by demographics such as geography, past spending habits and credit card data.

BONUS TIP: Make sure to capture cellphones numbers or email addresses when redeemed, so that next time you can re-target for a lower cost.  Also, consider an in-store database acquisition strategy to build your database organically.  


About as basic and easy to implement as you can get. Include an offer, your address (phone and website) and a call to action to help drive immediate results. This can be distributed at local businesses, office building and universities.

BONUS TIP: Think about where you are going to distribute the flyers, keep the message and offer relevant. If you are dropping them off at a University, include a student discount or late night special.  


It is important to maintain strong signage outside your location. Use the available space wisely so that cars and foot traffic can clearly read your name. Make sure that they can get a good idea of the type of food you serve inside. It is also important to make it clear the hours that you are open. Clearing display the sign that reads OPEN.

BONUS TIP: If your sign lights up then keep a close eye on your light bulbs since burnt out lights can reflect poorly on the brand.  


Why not use the walls, tables and counter tops in your restaurant to promote yourself. Keep customers up to date on new menu items, invite them to connect through social media, up-sell them on that new seasonal cocktail.

BONUS TIP: Keep the messaging fresh and current. Make sure that once the signage looks weathered and old that you replace it. 

Can you think of anything more social than dining? Everyone loves to talk about food and share their opinions.

Social Media:

Where to start? It amazes me that restaurants are not utilizing social media to promote their business. Maybe more than any other industry people are not only sharing but endorsing restaurants on social networks besides Facebook & Twitter. Customers are checking-in on Foursquare, sharing pictures on Pinterest, while offering reviews on Yelp! to name just a few.

BONUS TIP: Don’t use the excuse that you don’t want to allow a forum for negative comments. Those comments are being made, now you can at least be aware of them and do something about it. Be more concerned about what drove the comment in the first place. 

Resources: Getting Your Restaurant Started with Social Media and How to Get Your Restaurant Started On Social Media

Paid Search:

Paid search is also known as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and is a form of online advertising geared towards increasing awareness by way of paid placements, contextual advertising and paid inclusion on search engine sites such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

BONUS TIP: Don’t rely solely on SEM, incorporate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by optimizing your website and keep your content fresh.

As you can see there is no shortage of options of where to spend marketing dollars, each of them offering something unique. Make sure to keep the medium and the message on brand. Be cautious with where you spend your money, do not sign any long-term contracts if you can avoid them and please track or at least pay attention to how many people redeem the offer.

Consider using an integrated approach, and make sure to be consistent with your messaging. I left off websites, as a  future post will concentrate specifically on restaurant websites. Digital marketing is stealing dollars from traditional mediums led by Social media which can offer great results. Join the conversation and have a presence where your audience is already conversing. Search engines results are already being impacted by social media activity.

The last thing I want to leave you with is thinking about your audience. Take the time to figure out where your current and emerging audience is spending their time. Media consumption habits are changing, consumers are more protective of their time. DVRs have changed the way we watch TV, Tablets and Smartphones have changed how we use the web and the internet has certainly changed the way we read news. What may have worked for you in years past may no longer be right for you restaurant brand and your audience. 

What are you using to help promote your restaurant? What has been the most successful medium for your restaurant brand?

David on Google+

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