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Need a Break? Try Our Inflatable Dolls and Lunch Combos, Says Applebee's

  |  August 8, 2013   |  Comments

The casual dining chain has produced six Industrial Strength Lunch Decoys - which can be purchased on Amazon.com – as a means to market its Lunch Combos menu to work-weary Americans.

To anyone who has ever felt obligated to work through their lunch hour, Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar says: get a decoy.

To that end, the chain has produced a line of inflatable dolls available for purchase via Amazon.com to encourage lunch breaks and, conveniently, Applebee's Lunch Combos menu.

This is the second year Applebee's has offered inflatable decoys. This year, however, it has improved upon the original with Industrial Strength models that are 20 percent thicker. Built with 12-gauge vinyl material, Amazon says Industrial Strength Lunch Decoys are designed to endure 300 pounds.

Amazon describes each doll as a 62- or 64-inch "polyurethane inflatable you."

The decoys also include a Bonus Customization Kit with features like glasses, mustaches and tattoos to help individuals further tailor their decoys. Applebee's calls this is a $1 value.

David Corns, vice president and account director at digital agency CP+B, says the decoys launched on July 29.

The original models sold out in two weeks last summer, according to Shannon Scott, executive director of marketing at Applebee's.

Like the original version, the Industrial Strength Lunch Decoy is available in six models: Multi-Tasker, Cubicle Queen, Overachiever, Self-Starter, Go-Getter and Executive. Users are prompted to pick the decoy that looks most like them and leave said decoy at work:

As of August 3, the Overachiever model was no longer listed. By August 5, the Cubicle Queen was sold out, too.

Applebee's would not disclose sales figures.

Corns says Applebee's is using Amazon because it is "where the majority of Americans go to buy products" and has distribution to the entire country.

In its Amazon description, the Multi-Tasker says it is "an incredible likeness for almost any female with blonde hair and green eyes." Other models feature similar descriptions. (In addition, Amazon notes all sales are final, decoys are not flotation devices and "this product and the accessories sold with it contain chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.")

Reviews are mixed.

Two five-star reviews liken the decoys to a perhaps seedier cousin, with one trumpeting, "S*x Toy Finds A New Life After Retirement," and another proclaiming, "Easy to inflate, and easier to cuddle!"

One one-star review complains about the high cost of shipping. The Industrial Strength Lunch Decoy is priced at $6.99, but carries an $11.29 shipping fee.

A two-star review presumably takes a more tongue-in-cheek approach, writing, "This worked well for several days until my boss called me up during a meeting to discuss sales projections."

According to Applebee's, its Lunch Combos Menu allows customers to create more than 200 combinations of soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees. Scott says these lunch options mean workers "can literally come back every weekday of the year and have a different lunch combo."

To push the campaign, Applebee's has produced a 30-second TV spot and a long-form web video. Promotional elements also include banners and custom content from BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

Applebee's says it is the world's largest casual dining chain, with approximately 2,000 locations in 49 states, 15 countries and one U.S. territory.

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Lisa Lacy

In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.

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