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Everyone loves free stuff. But there are more clever ways to give your customers freebies than just handing out coupons or swag.

Here are three times companies made a difference with the things they gave away:

1. To support a cause
2. To apologize
3. To reenergize conversations

1. To support a cause

It can get dangerously hot in Texas. And tragically, several children and pets die each year of heatstroke from being left or forgotten in an unairconditioned car. So to raise awareness for the issue and inspire people to do something about it, JRD Windshield Repair and Replacement in Austin offers to support the people who help save kids and pets trapped in hot cars. If you break a window to help bust a child or dog out of a locked, unairconditioned car, JRD will pay to replace it.

2. To apologize

This year’s bird flu epidemic created an egg shortage that caused some restaurants to make changes to their menu. Some cut back their breakfast hours, stopped selling certain items, or, like Taco Cabana, raised their prices. So to make up for it, when the egg shortage was over, Taco Cabana gave away breakfast tacos at some of their locations for one day. It was a great way to announce the comeback as well as apologize to their customers.

3. To reenergize conversations

For one weekend, one city in Romania let passengers ride public transport for free if they read a book on their route. The idea came from a group campaigning to get more people to read, the city obliged, and the mayor posted about it on his Facebook page. Most people don’t really think (or talk) about the mundane stuff they do every day — like riding the bus. When companies do fun, unexpected giveaways like this, it sparks word of mouth for the everyday stuff too.

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