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.
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.
After years of case studies showing social media’s power to connect people (customers, partners, and employees), you would think the debate would be settled.
In fact, it’s just beginning in some companies…now in a new way.
While nearly everyone is probably willing to admit there is some value to social media and that “it works”, a new question is arising.
Exactly how much is it worth?
This video parodies what’s going on in some companies as the new year begins.
How do situations like this happen?
Sometimes decision makers are not educated enough on what they were buying, had their expectations set too high, or don’t have patience to see it through. It might even be a combination of all three.
Here are three big reasons why leaders are beginning a new round of debates about the value of social media in the marketing mix:
1) Poor Education
Leaders are not being educated on what they are buying, how long it will take, or what it actually does.
Sometimes, overzealous marketing leaders used the “Everyone’s Doing It” pitch and got approval without explaining that social media is a new kind of war, not a single battle.
2) Wrong Expectations
Have you heard or said things like:
“Social media is free advertising!”
“Social media will make sales explode!”
“Let’s make it go viral!”
“We won’t have to spend money on other expensive marketing routes.”
In reality, using social media is only one part of building a modern business. Setting expectations too high, too fast, or too easy makes for trouble.
3) Lack of Patience
Some leaders have been properly educated with correct expectations, but just don’t have the patience. Their ADHD leadership tendencies make them lose focus or patience and they withdraw support so they can focus on their next great strategy.
Social media is not a strategy. It is a method of communicating.
Communication can be good. Communication can be bad. However, for most industries there is no way to calculate return on investment of communication.
It is everything.
If you choose to do social media poorly, you are choosing to do business poorly.
Don’t stop something you’ve started because you’re impatient or afraid. This social media stuff isn’t going away and your competitors are only spending more time and money each quarter on finding ways to connect with your clients. Ignore it for too long, and your clients may begin to ignore you too.
I first heard about Pinterest.com from a woman who was telling my wife that she and her daughter are addicted to “pinning” things and looking at “pins” all day. Since I never want to miss the next big thing (addictive is indicative), my ears perked up.
I took a pass and let my wife be the pioneer on this one. Pin It
However, about a month ago I started paying attention again after hearing that it was the #3 social network for time spent, #5 traffic driving social network (beat out Google+), and had growth of 400+% in the last six months. On Tuesday, Hitwise tweeted that Pinterest’s visits have grown from 10 million to 17 million in just this month!
I also started noticing more visits to 8pmWarrior.com from Pinterest.com, so I did some research.
I found out that it allows video, is addictive for visual people, is easy to start using, and that there were (inexplicably) other men on there too.
There are men on Pinterest?!
I don’t ever want to be a latecommer to the next big party. Plus, I was an art minor in college and enjoy graphic design & video production. Many people (all women) told me that Pinterest was right up my alley.