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.
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?
Each one of us is unique. No two 8pm Warriors are the exact same size.
I’ve worn a one-size-fits-all hospital gown in the past and it wasn’t a great fit. Probably not the first choice of apparel for many people…
Many other “free” things only come in one size too:
Baseball cap giveaways
Drink trays at the theater or drive thru
And many others
However, I have yet to find a “one size fits all” life.
The problem with “one size fits all” is that it usually means “this size fits no one”. In the end, no one really wants it. It doesn’t fit.
The same goes for life.
So then why do so many people base their happiness on how well their life compares to others? Why do some parents drag their children down the same path? Why do some children strive to be just like others? It doesn’t work.
No matter what anyone says, you must follow your own heart, do what you love, chase your dreams, and find the one life that fits you.
Creating a strategy is like building a sand castle on the shore. Unfortunately, the tide will always come in and destroy your work. Just ask every business leader before 705 AD and almost all of them since. Successful leaders must plan for it.
Since nothing lasts forever (especially now), the way to be successful in the long run is to honestly consider a future without your current star product or business model. No matter how hard it is, you need to start tearing down emotional connections to your successful past endeavors so you can plan ahead.
Don’t make your success a liability.
Just ask Circuit City about Best Buy, Montgomery Ward about Walmart, or Dell about Apple. They all dominated the other before ultimately losing the lead. Circuit City had big box electronics retail figured out and Montgomery Ward was famous for their catalogs. Now my daughter doesn’t even know what a catalog is. Catalogs didn’t last.
Also look at Michael Dell. He built an amazing company that took “on demand” manufacturing to a whole new level and was the poster child of the best cost marketing strategy. I remember reading in 2000 how analysts thought Dell would be hard to beat due to their strategy and economies of scale. The “moat around them is too wide” they said. 10 years later Dell’s value is down almost 80% even though computer sales are up.
Their strategy didn’t last.
The winners will be companies like Apple, who plan for change because they see that products, companies, and even whole industries don’t last. Apple didn’t think stand alone music players (iPod) would last, so they developed the iPhone. They don’t think laptops will last, so they developed the iPad. They’re building something that doesn’t last…and they know it.
It’s time we all did.
Today it’s time to start thinking about the future, the time when what you’re working on today is obsolete. Plan for it. Change before you need to. Build something that truly lasts.
As someone who’s made it my life’s work to create things, I often wonder:
Will anyone care about what I am creating?
Does my creation matter?
Will anyone read my blog, watch my show, join my community, buy my service, appreciate my design, listen to my speech, share, comment, or care?
What happens if I invest an extraordinary amount of time into something and it fails?
Creators live in a difficult position. If they invest their life into something that fails, they are considered a failure by many. Creators and their creations are often grouped together.
Creators must be prepared to be a failure.
Think of the inventors, writers, designers, and artists who spent their life working on their creation, only to come up short. Just think about all the developers that developed something that no one used, bought, or shared. For every Facebook, there are hundreds of social websites like Legacy 110.
There is great personal risk to any creator.
As I’ve said many times, there is a place for bravery in a modern world. Just look at the creative process. If no one was brave enough to risk total failure, we’d have no internet, no computers, no electricity.
Someone had to risk wasting their life.
It’s the only one of the 4 C’s of Social Media that regularly faces a do or die situation. If consumers don’t like what they consume (fail), they can easily find something else. If curators share something unpopular (fail), they can move on quickly to share something new. There is an unlimited supply of things out there to consume or share.
Creating just isn’t that simple.
If you’ve ever blogged, recorded, designed, engineered, written a book, or given a speech, you know what I’m talking about. It isn’t easy to create something truly new. The bigger and better the creation, the larger the risk. That’s why so many people avoid beginning the journey.
So what makes people create? Natural curiosity? An accident? Insanity? The potential payoff?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m truly thankful for those who invented the telecommunications that connect me to you, the computer I’m using right now, the software that makes it run, and the coffee that I’m enjoying right now. All of these things had to be created and they truly enrich my life. And so do the books, movies, and blogs that I consume each day.
I am thankful for the Creators in my life.
However, creators are not islands, they can not exist alone. They need curators to share their work and curators need consumers to make their curation matter. We are all creators, curators, and consumers in some way, and we all need each other to make this social web work.
Thanks for creating, sharing, and reading. Because of you, we are all better off.
After my last article (3 Reasons to Use MS Tags) I got to hear from a lot of naysayers in the QR Code industry that had made up their mind already. They didn’t care much for my post.
Others were supportive and felt like they found a leapfrog technology over QR Codes. I’m glad I could help. This sort of healthy discourse is why I started the 8pm Warrior blog.
Since this has been a very hot topic lately (almost a thousand views the last couple days), I wanted to do a follow up post sharing a couple pieces that I’ve had designed using MS Tags. One of my fellow 8pm Warriors (Mary Fitzgerald) asked to see ways that my team has used MS Tags before.
Here are some examples:
First, grab the MS Tag reader for your smart phone at http://gettag.mobi (you should test it to see how it works).
The MS Tag size is nice for business cards. We were able to go slightly below the 0.75 inch size that is recommended. That helped us keep the type of design we wanted when designing a card on clear plastic.
As you can see (below), it didn’t have much room for a massive 1×1 inch QR Code. With the use of an MS Tag, we could have our cake and eat it too.
In the Clear Medical Network poster below, we started off using QR Codes. However, many people thought they were bar codes and that we were selling the posters.
Since they are free for college guidance counselors, that was obviously a problem. Our fix? Use a colorful and fun MS Tag. (See below)
Again, here we used an MS Tag to bring this fun Insider Show video series to life with a colorful tag. Nothing says fun like lively colors.
It was nice that the free online MS Tag creator made the tag and the instruction box. Obviously most 8pm Warriors don’t have a lot of time, so this is a nice feature. Since just about anyone can make one, it also leads to lower design costs. Simple, colorful, fun. (See below)
After looking at some real world examples, check out the MS Tag showcase site to see what other great organizations have been using them.
The good news is that the 2D tag industry is still in its infancy, and you can choose whichever method you want. Don’t always listen to everything you hear. I was told that many designers hate Microsoft, so they will always oppose MS Tags over QR Codes.
Try both (QR Codes and MS Tags) for yourself to see what you like.