Arby’s celebrated this year’s Game of Thrones season finale with a one-day “Smoked Turkey Leg” promotion – at only nine locations. And the results speak for themselves.

Stories from USA TODAY, Time, and more popped up instantly. That much is expected. But what’s more, even websites like UPROXX (a culture and entertainment site) and Kotaku (a video gaming site) followed up with their own stories on the Arby’s special event.

It didn’t just stop with the announcement. Bloggers, foodies, and Instagrammers of all sorts flocked to Arby’s on the big day, just to get some variation of the “I Tried the Arby’s Game of Thrones Turkey Leg” story on their blogs, social media, and so on.

Arby’s didn’t just get one round of headlines. They got two (or more). The best part? They got these headlines – tangible earned promotion – from sources that wouldn’t traditionally have much of a reason to talk about Arby’s in the first place. They didn’t have to pay any of these people (in fact, many of these people literally ended up paying them). They didn’t have to spend thousands on a massively promoted marketing campaign. They got all this promotion because they capitalized on the cultural phenomenon that is Game of Thrones.

Now, the lesson here isn’t that you messed up by not offering a hunking turkey leg of your own at your restaurant. Far from it. What Arby’s did, and what you can do too, is that they didn’t just capitalize on something that was just currently popular. They capitalized on something at the very zenith of its popularity: its season finale. This was a point when millions of people across the globe would click on any single story relating to the show, simply because of the excitement factor.

How can you do something like this? It’s simple. You just have to pay attention to pop culture. But it’s not just about figuring out what’s popular. Star Wars will always be popular. Football will always be popular. It’s about figuring out when something popular is at its peak.

So sell those sci-fi themed cocktails when the new Star Wars movie premieres. Bake that football-shaped pizza only on Super Bowl Sunday. Not every idea is guaranteed to set the world on fire. But if you capture that lightning-in-a-bottle, and you do it at the right time, you will absolutely reap the benefits.

The good news is that even if you don’t run a restaurant chain with thousands of locations, you can still capitalize on pop culture. You may not get as much instant-coverage as Arby’s, but foodies and bloggers are always paying attention. Once they notice you, it’s only a matter of time!

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Have you ever capitalized on pop culture at your restaurant? What did you do? Let us know in the comments! 

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