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.
On the front cover of this morning’s USA Today, you’ll see my contribution in a piece called “Tweets, not résumés, are trending #icymi“. My fellow 8pm Warriors were the first sounding board for the idea back in 2011 when I wrote about my experience screening and hiring a social media manager based solely on tweets:
Since the experiment went so well, I honestly thought I would hear of someone else trying it. Nope. Not until years later, when Bruce from USA Today contacted me last week for an interview.
Why is that?
Twitter is very public and even though it makes sense for some positions, most hiring managers would be afraid to interview someone in public.
Not because they’re afraid for their applicants, but because they’re afraid for themselves. Afraid of everyone watching them.
Fear drives most business decisions.
Why else did it take so long for most businesses to get into social media? Same reason why it’s taking so long for them to follow the online video wave now.
Twitter isn’t the right tool for hiring most positions. However, we need to celebrate people that are boldly using Twitter.
We need to celebrate leaders like Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer at the tech firm Enterasys Networks, who is filling a six figure senior social media strategist job via tweets only (no resume accepted), or Kristy Webster at The Marketing Arm (part of Omnicom Group, a big advertising firm) who is filling five social media internships based on tweeted answers to five questions over the course of five days.
Cool times we live in.
What say you? Is hiring via twitter here to stay? Or, will we be back here in 2 years talking about it again?
It’s the new year and I have three thoughts on my mind. Thought I would share them with my fellow 8pm Warriors.
1) Focus on the positive stuff.
Yes, the economy has been bad. Some places around the world, it’s still bad.
However, there are still opportunities everywhere if we take the time to look for them. Focus on the bad things will only blind us from seeing the amazing people, places, and opportunities that surround us.
For every dark muddy mess on the ground, there is a beautiful sunrise if we just look up.
Keep your chin up.
2) Don’t be afraid to do great things. Don’t settle.
Just because nobody is doing it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Don’t be afraid to be the first.
Stop writing, thinking, talking, and working like everyone else. There’s a better way if we’re not afraid to be the first.
Yes, you may be wrong. But following behind others your whole life will always be wrong.
Nobody changed the world by copying others.
3) Don’t do it alone.
Amazing work is too hard to do alone.
You will fall…and when you do, you’ll need someone to help pick you up.
If you’re isolated and nobody “gets it”, don’t hesitate to use the power of social media and the internet. You’re not alone, even if you want to be.
Let me know if you need help, feedback, ideas, encouragement.
8pm Warriors need to stick together.
A couple weeks ago, I got this shot of an old man walking on the ocean in Vancouver. He was alone.
In 2013, my goal is to do big, crazy, bold things. I’m going to walk across the ocean if I have to…but I’m not going to do it alone.
Thanks for a great 2012 and I look forward to getting to know you better in 2013.
I know great people that haven’t done so well over the past five years.
They have no life insurance, health insurance, pension, or 401(k). They get sick, but they don’t go to the doctor. In pain, but they push on.
Some call them crazy. Others call them ignorant.
“Why work 80 hours a week for yourself to avoid working 40 for someone else?” “Why don’t you sleep more?” “Why don’t you get a stable job?” “Odds are you won’t make it anyway.” “You have a one in a million chance.”
The odds are against them. It’s true.
However it’s also true that the odds were against every single person in history that did anything amazing, brave, or beautiful. They were all crazy. They all ignored their odds.
That’s why they made it.
Their odds were one in a million, because THEY were one in a million.
They left the family business to pursue their risky passion for writing, like my brother-in-law. They took big risks in uncertain times, like my friend Claudia did with her dental practice.
If you’re still reading this, you probably have seen similar stories.
You might be having doubts right now. The last couple years have been really tough on leaders and entrepreneurs.
If you’re like me, you’ve had many failures. You’ve wondered if it’s the right course. Yet we press on.
For every “one out of a million” story, there is always a second person who had the skill and passion to make it too. They just quit too soon.
What makes for amazing stories, are the people who didn’t quit when everyone quit on them. They are the Thomas Edison’s who failed 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. They fight like Steve Jobs, who got kicked out of the company he started, but still kept on pushing forward.
If you believe in what you’re doing, do not quit.
That’s how you accomplish amazing things with your life. That’s how you change the world. If you love what you do and passionately pursue it, the rest will take care of itself.
Every year I write up a commencement address for new graduates. This year my alma mater (Wisconsin Lutheran College) asked me to share some thoughts with the warriors graduating this weekend.
Someday I’ll actually give one of these speeches live.
1) Be the Best
You are competing with one billion people in China, another billion in India, and half a billion people in North America. If you’re average, then you’ll also be poor, miserable, or replaced. Pure and simple.
To be in demand with this economy, you must be the best at what you do.
It doesn’t matter how you get there. Experience, training, luck, internships, whatever…just be the best.
2) Be Yourself When You Grow Up
Role models are great. Teachers are wonderful. However, when it’s time to pick a path in life, the person you need to be is looking at you in the mirror.
There are a couple reasons why you should be you and not someone else.
1) You’re the best in the world at it. (see #1)
2) Being someone else is hard work and you’ll never be good at it.
3) It wastes a lot of time otherwise. Everyone with half a brain knows you’re trying to be someone else.
4) It makes you unique. You have talents/skills/knowledge that nobody else has. When you be yourself, those unique qualities shine through.
While parents, friends, and others may challenge you to follow someone else’s path, you must resist. Follow your heart. Do what you love.
3) People First
The world revolves around people. You won’t be hired by your iPhone. You won’t be promoted by the laptop you use. Your car won’t be giving you a raise.
I always hear “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That is wrong.
In a hyper-connected world, it’s not who you know, but who you’ve helped. Everyone “knows” everybody, but everybody remembers when someone helps them.
Help as many people as you can.
4) Mean It
If you don’t really care about people, they will know. You’d be better off working with machines or basket weaving.
If you choose to work with people, you need to mean it. No faking.
If you want to help someone, roll up your sleeves and do it.
5) Run or Stay
When you find yourself connected to bad people, run. They will ruin you.
If you find yourself surrounded by great people, stay. They will help you grow.
If you want to fail miserably in anything, walk.
6) Don’t Spend Much Time Watching
It’s fashionable to dedicate large amounts of time to watching celebs and popular “experts” to see what they’re doing. It’s also stupid.
Learning is a good thing, but watching isn’t doing. Groupies are losers.
Winners do. Leaders lead.
Followers just watch.
7) Don’t Waste Anyone’s Time
In the Attention Era, wasting someone’s time is not only rude, but ineffective as well.
Don’t ask if you don’t care. Don’t talk if you don’t have anything valuable to say.
Don’t be boring.
8) Push Until It Hurts
When it hurts, you’ll know you’re doing it right.
If you care about people, they will hurt you. If you dedicated yourself to something, it will fail you. Get ready to cry.
The key is not to fear the pain you might feel, but to fear a path that doesn’t cost anything. All great things cost something.