A series of 15-, 30-, and 60-second ads featuring real-life regular customers debuted at Applebee’s earlier this month as part of the company’s “Here’s to The Regulars” marketing campaign. An iconic theme from the classic sitcom “Cheers” is used in a Grey Advertising campaign, which aims to position the chain as “the restaurant where everyone knows your name.”
In the first year of the pandemic, the chain, like all on-premise restaurants, was particularly hard hit. “Here’s to the Regulars” follows a year of marketing successes and financial rebound for the chain. CMO Joel Yashinsky is now in his fifth year with the company.
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“When I joined the team in 2018, we had to shore up the business and really establish the presence of the brand. We’ve had a lot of fun with marketing now that we’ve established and built up the brand and made it a household name “he stated.
In an interview with Marketing Dive, Yashinsky discussed the campaign, how the brand dealt with going viral on TikTok, and more.
In the new campaign, which includes the use of the “Cheers” theme and real people in ads, what was the marketing strategy behind it?
People who are fans of our brand, who visit our restaurants frequently, and who connect with our team members on a regular basis are stories that we heard from our team members in restaurants across the country. We were enthralled by these stories and thought they had the potential to shed light on an important aspect of the pandemic: that people are eager to return to normalcy once the pandemic is over.
When it comes to communicating our brand, music has always been a crucial component of our communication strategy. In the 1980s, both “Cheers” and Applebee’s became huge successes. We saw a connection between what they were promoting in the show and what we do every day at our restaurant, and so we thought it was a logical fit.
Everyone is focusing on authenticity at this time because of the pandemic and everything else that’s going on in the world. People want to know why a brand is important and how it connects with them on a personal level. Natural, authentic and real are the words that best describe these stories. According to some of our research, people are looking for a real and authentic connection.
It just so happened that Walker Hayes his hit song from the summer of 2021] was an Applebee’s regular last year. We decided to expand on that idea by inviting people to share their stories about why they love Applebee’s.
Regarding “Fancy Like,” which became a hit after going viral on the social video platform TikTok and has earned Hayes four ACM nominations, did you have any reservations about capitalising on the current music phenomenon? Have you come away with anything?
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It was created with him and his daughter in mind, which is why YASHINSKY thought it was the perfect choice for the video. Our company is a family-owned business. Applebee’s is a popular spot for first dates because of our focus on romantic get-togethers. It also allowed us to think about TikTok in a new way, allowing us to come up with new ideas for the social media platform. It gave us a new perspective on how we can become relevant and speak to a younger audience on TikTok while also making sure we’re utilising our other social media posts.
Cosmic Wings, Applebee’s buzziest virtual brand, was launched last year, and then Cheetos-flavored menu items were brought to the restaurant. A virtual brand’s marketing strategy is affected by its association with another company.
Our relationship with Pepsi and PepsiCo goes back many years, and Cheetos are part of their Frito Lay portfolio, so it was an obvious fit. Cheetos flavours and Cheetos products are extremely popular right now, so we had a lot of information to work with. As a result of our collaboration, we’ve been able to create products that we were confident would be successful under a virtual brand, and we’re particularly excited about the prospects for the future growth of Cosmic Wings.
Using virtual brand ideas in live presentations or Applebee’s marketing campaigns is another possibility we see. We’re still working on the Cosmic Wings virtual brand, but in December we had a great time bringing some of the virtual brand’s products into our restaurants for a limited time. We’ll continue to look and explore how we develop virtual brands and where we might go in the future, and how those also would then interact with the Applebee’s brand.
“Metaverse Mondays” was a concept that Applebee’s experimented with last year. What led to that?
In the end, it was a low risk/medium to high reward proposition for us. Even though this was just a stunt or a gimmick in terms of just an NFT that we put out from our brand, there was a real-world component to this as well. We’re giving away the featured product for a year to those who were able to secure the artwork.
Bringing in that real world experience along with the NFT just made so much sense to be able to break through some of the the noise that was happening as NFTs were starting to garner a lot of attention and a lot of activity from a lot of different brands. In 2022, we plan to continue the Metaverse Mondays we started with our agency partners.
The third year of a pandemic challenge is upon us, and which marketing channels are becoming more and which less important?
For us, CRM is a critical component, both now and in the future. It has taken a lot of effort and money on our part, but we’ve been able to establish a stronger relationship with our customers by using various CRM channels. While we do not currently have a rewards programme in place, we are looking into it and gathering information about it. It is our goal to continue utilising our email club to ensure that we are providing our guests with more personalised and direct communications.