Applebee’s launched the Spirited Chef social campaign during their holiday menu. It’s a brilliant social media play, and I think “old marketers” can learn something from it.
Old is just a state of mind.
They hired 19-time world champion flair bartender Christian Delpech to help them make the best video ever by their fans. Their growing online community was invited to tweet suggested tricks, stunts, costumes, and pretty much anything else they’d like to see this amazing performer do, using the #SpiritedChef hashtag.
After a couple weeks, the #SpiritedChef hashtag has gotten millions and millions of impressions on Twitter and Facebook. Many suggestions were made and the film crew headed out to Las Vegas to film the video the fans wrote.
Here it is the original video:
Here is the sequel:
I was honored to direct the video production and became fascinated as I watched the social media strategy unfold under the brilliant guidance of Jill McFarland, Jonathon Brewer and the BTC Revolutions team (Applebee’s digital agency).
Here are five thoughts for “old marketers” that might need a little nudging into the new era.
1) Fear Will Lead to Failure
Our world is changing so fast. If you want to keep up, you have to do things that are unknown and unproven. Risk is part of leadership and leadership in a changing world is the only way to survive as a brand (just ask Circuit City).
Besides that, people are weird. If you want to relate to people, sometimes you have to be a little weird too.
One of the things that Applebee’s does exceedingly well is keep an open mind and interact with their customers in a personal manner, no matter what sort of online sub-culture they belong too.
There’s a very large group of men that enjoy My Little Ponies. They’re called Bronies. By some estimates, there are about a million of these gentlemen out there.
The Chili’s restaurant group decided they wanted to engage with their Brony customers and designed a Chili’s My Little Pony. They then tweeted it out asking what were the Bronies’ favorite things to eat at Chili’s. The responses got ugly and Chili’s quickly retreated and deleted the tweet.
Now nobody was happy.
Later on, Applebee’s had a customer ask if the Spirited Chef liked ponies and they engaged in their typical personal fashion. The Brony tweet made it into the above video.
The community of Bronies responded and 12,000+ views came from blog posts on My Little Ponies related sites. One group in Manhattan even went so far as to throw a party at the local Applebee’s to thank them for not being afraid of the topic like Chili’s was.
This is just one interesting example of success due to “brand bravery”. When you watch the video, you see all sorts of other sub-cultures involved from Minecraft and unicorns to Corey Pieper and One Direction fans.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to engage with your customers on their turf, even if their turf involves a little pony.
2) Keep Things Simple & Specific
Applebee’s tweeted many times about this project and I noticed that some types of tweets got more responses than others. More people (20 people in top tweet vs 3 people in bottom one) added suggestions after the call to action made a specific ask (second tweet below).
People don’t really care about much, so don’t ask for much thought unless you have a huge payoff. Keep it simple. Keep it specific.
Lesson learned: It’s okay to vary your posts and get more specific if you’re not getting the volume of responses you want.
3) Transparency Builds Trust & Ownership
To add a level of transparency, the group was streaming live video from behind the scenes during production. Not only did this combat the usual “camera trick” conspiracy theorists, but it made the hundreds of people watching the live broadcast feel more involved. They got a chance to see instant replays, as well as interact with the Applebee’s brand on Twitter.
Feel free to watch the recording of the production:
Luckily we didn’t make too many mistakes, but even if we did, we’d probably get a lot of leniency from a world that appreciates honesty and transparency.
Lesson learned: You build trust and ownership from customers when you open up and share the process.
4) The Future is Social
TV commercials don’t usually translate well to social media and YouTube because they are one-way messages in a two-way social media world. People expect to be engaged and entertained in social channels and if you do it right you’ll get tons of exposure through earned media and the subscription base you’ll build.
Keep pushing traditional broadcast commercials on your YouTube channel and you’ll keep getting the same poor results. After switching styles, Applebee’s saw subscriptions rise by 20% in the first month of the #SpiritedChef campaign.
As long as they keep creating social video content, they’ll have those fans for years to come. No advertising dollars needed.
Each network has it’s own flavor and quirks. On Facebook people statistically don’t like to leave the ecosystem when they’re browsing. They may watch the video, but won’t generally click to the native YouTube page to comment or give a thumbs up.
This can get frustrating.
Why then do tons of YouTube video channels have thousands of comments? It’s because they’ve built a YouTube specific community that waits for their videos, that comments on their videos, that shares their videos with others in the YouTube ecosystem.
Lesson learned: In order to consistently get lots of views on YouTube videos without a huge advertising budget, you need to build a community of people that watch videos. That takes time, and it takes consistently great videos that make people want more.
I had dinner with my brilliant friend and fellow Milwaukeean Phil Gerbyshak the other night and he showed me the largest scrape I’ve ever seen. It went from his hand up the entire length of his arm…biking accident in Portland. (Wouldn’t be surprised if my buddy Robert Caruso had something to do with it, he’s trouble.)
It made me think.
It’s amazing how people are so proud of their scars once the pain is gone. I know I am.
I immediately dove into the lake the other day after my phone fell out of my pocket and off the boat. I somehow managed to grab it in the depths of the lake before it sunk to the bottom. The phone was ruined, but I was so proud of it when I came back to the surface.
Proud of my broken phone?
Someday will I be proud of my big failures? Will I be proud of the many mistakes I’ve made?
I’m not sure. Some of these events are still so painful. However, I will be proud I kept going…kept fighting forward. The scars will be proof. They will remind me of where I’ve been, who I am, and how I got to where I am now.
If you’re still in pain over your failures, I wanted to drop you this note tonight and tell you that someday you’ll be proud of what you’ve gone through.
We are warriors. These battles we fight are painful. Most quit. We get hurt. We have scars.
Some people fight change. They think it helps them avoid losing their way, falling, or failing.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Right?
I look at my competitors who are still using elevator music, editing on outdated software, or shooting with old cameras and these words come to mind:
“Today, you’re either going to get better or you’re going to get worse, but you’re not going to stay the same. So which is it going to be?”
- Joe Paterno
In a world of constant innovation and progress, staying the same is getting worse. Your position is slipping, even if you’re holding still. Everybody is changing.
Getting better is the only way to not get worse.
Lately, I’ve wondered if I’m slipping a bit myself. I’ve been seeing a lot of time-lapse imagery in TV shows and movies such as House of Cards, Gold Rush, and Art of Flight. We’ve used time-lapse before, but not at the level I’m seeing out there now.
Regardless of what industry we work in, we’re all going to change. That’s a fact.
Today I’m choosing to get better. I’m saying goodbye to the wife and kids, jumping on a plane to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth, and we are going to master the art of time-lapse for our clients.
I want to be the best, and I need to keep moving forward.
As a video producer & director, I work with a lot of creative talent. I also work with a lot of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
I constantly hear talk like this:
“I’m waiting for my big break.”
“That giant order was a big break for his new business. Hoping I’ll get news like that someday.”
“I’m jealous of her because she got her big break before I got mine.”
After hearing it again today, I wanted to share a little insider secret.
The “Big Break” doesn’t exist.
Not only that, but it’s a damaging idea because some people are literally waiting for their big break. Instead of hitting the pavement each day, running for their life towards their goals…they are waiting.
They are hoping.
Every “big break” is really just a series of small steps. The person got better every day. They made more connections. They moved forward.
Then, they ran into the right person. Big break you say? Nope.
The right person isn’t Santa Claus, delivering big breaks. The right person doesn’t help people who aren’t right for them. They aren’t a charity.
You need to be ready when you meet the right person. It won’t be your big break.
The difference between a winner and a loser is your attitude.
Losers let losing define them. They let losing be their judgment, instead of their stepping stone. They spend the rest of their time trying to make excuses, instead of making improvements. Losers don’t win, because they see a loss as the end, not the beginning.
Winners see losing as a way to measure progress and know that they are pushing themselves. Losing means they’re not where they need to be…yet. Losing means needing to make adjustments. Losing is progress.
For my birthday (which is today) or Christmas, loving family and friends sometimes ask what they should “get” me. Last year, I asked for support in digging a well for a village in Africa. This year I’m asking for something closer to home.
I get to work with some of the most talented video artists on the planet. There are even more waiting eagerly in the wings, demo reels in hand. It’s my job to keep them busy and it’s never easy.
For my birthday, I’m asking my friends and family for their help.
Below are three ways you can help me and other entrepreneurs chase their dreams:
1) Seek to understand their chase
Just like it’s nice to understand that a farmer needs rain or an athlete needs to win, entrepreneurs appreciate being understood too.
Leadership can be lonely.
Many of them are risking their retirement, friendships, and health to follow their dreams. If you care about them, join them on the journey. Follow their business on Facebook. Subscribe to their blog. Have discussions with them more than once a year on their birthday.