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.
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.
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 remember the good old days when people called friends on their birthdays or hung out.
Now they post a message on their wall, shoot them an email, or leave a voicemail if they have time. I’ve watched people text each other from across the room and once found out about my nephew’s baptism via Facebook pictures. It was 20 minutes away. No society should have families randomly discovering important family events.
If this keeps up, our society is in real trouble.
Social media is cheap communication.
The problem with communicating primarily through social media channels is that it’s primarily deferred communication (more here).
No one actually knows if it’s being seen, and increasingly, it’s not. People are overwhelmed with the number of emails, updates, tweets, pins, messages, videos and other stuff flying their way.
Yet, so many times I hear from friends (especially the younger generations) asking me if I saw their latest update on Facebook.
Nope. I didn’t.
Study after study I see shows that young people overwhelmingly prefer deferred communication to live conversation. It’s easier.
Deferred Communication (Focused, but delayed and distant)
Broadcast Communication (Maybe you’ll see or hear it)
How can you truly know someone or build a lasting bond without seeing their smile, hearing their tone changes, or getting instant feedback during your discussion?
The problem is that concurrent communication is so much harder than deferred or broadcast communication. It requires scheduling. Social media channels make it easy to feel like your communicating with others.
We’re faking it and it’s tearing apart traditional relationships. Especially among young people. As we get overwhelmed by deferred communication, stuff is missed. Divisions are formed.
When “friends” aren’t seeing our updates, people feel lonely. I’m seeing more suicides from very “social” people and the average number of close friends per person has fallen from four to two.
Something must change.
We need to develop real connections with our social media contacts. We need to invest in human relationships. It’s time we meet our fellow Warriors.
With that call to action in mind, I’m going to do something about my concerns. I may disconnect from immediate family members on Facebook so we actually have to talk. Communication between families and friends should be deeper. The same goes for clients and partners.
Also, in the coming months I’m going to host several free live events so we can all meetup.
Other events TBD (I’ll invite email subscribers and Facebook group members)
I just got back from the East Coast, but hopefully you can meet me at one of these remaining events. It’s worth the investment of time.
For the good of our society and as an example to young people, let’s bring our online relationships offline and our family members and friends back where need to be: in front of us, talking, laughing, crying, or smiling.
Social media is only a start.
Let’s find a way to build or rebuild personal relationships tonight,