Brand salience is critical in the crowded food and beverage category, because daily decisions about what to eat are based on convenience and familiarity. At the start of 2018, salience was not on Panera's side. Total brand mentions were in a gradual, three-year decline. Our goal was to drive conversation and conquer share of voice in category, with Twitter as our primary vehicle.
The task was formidable. Panera was up against competitors' mammoth media spends. Between Sept '16 - Aug '17, McDonald's total spend was 10x Panera's; Subway, Taco Bell and Burger King's were all ~5x. Panera needed an immediate, efficient way to increase relevance with everyday consumers.
To succeed, Panera had to treat Twitter as not just a channel, but an engine of the brand's purpose of Food As It Should Be—the belief that the power of clean food* can cultivate community, reinforce food positivity, and help change a fundamentally broken industry for the better.
*Panera defines clean food as no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and no colors from artificial sources.
We set out to dominate food culture through a social-first strategy and generate mass conversation around our brand and products. On Twitter, we clocked up to 3,000 unaided mentions of Panera per month—making the channel our ideal vehicle to spark brand love and galvanize our audience around key initiatives. Our strategy set the stage for three major moments in 2018:
1. Creating Real-Time Relevance
Panera's real-time system cultivates brand love by harnessing hyper-relevant moments in culture, making complicated food issues dynamic and digestible.
Case in point: when we discovered that US restaurant chains can serve "eggs" containing as many as 16 ingredients, Panera petitioned the FDA to define the term "egg" as one ingredient—forcing our competitors to clean up their acts.
The petition was a provocative challenge bound to generate conversation, and when Twitter Queen Chrissy Teigen tweeted in support of real eggs, we were ready. She suggested that we should call our Broccoli Cheddar Soup "Delicious Cream Times," and we promptly made her a customized "Delicious Cream Times" soup and delivered it to her door, earning yet another tweet. Panera even changed the name of the Broccoli Cheddar Soup on our e-commerce site, earning headlines from the press.
2. Sparking Social-Led Product Innovation
Social listening can lead to some amazing things, including new menu items.
Through social listening, we saw that #PaneraDate garners clear, consistent behavior from our fans, who share their moments in cafe together. Naturally, we paid off that behavior with a product that's made to be shared: The Double Bread Bowl.
Launching in one test market (Philadelphia) as a limited-time-only menu item, the Double Bread Bowl dominated social media conversation before cafes could open their doors.
A total of 231 publishers picked up the story, resulting in over 498 million earned impressions.
3. Making our Name in Meme Culture
Since we aim to differentiate in category and in-feed, what better way to do that than to double down on our most iconic asset: Bread.
This strategic point of differentiation gave us permission to jump on a rising meme—Let's Get This Bread.
The team acted with a single tweet. No paid media. Zero dollars spent on production.
After the tweet went live, retweets and @mentions soared, and the Panera team was all-hands on deck, sparking 1:1 dialogue to accelerate the conversation on Twitter, even creating new memes, all in the name of bread.
Within 24 hours, the tweet spanned platforms as a meme, subsequently being featured on Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. More memes poured out of the original, as fans created their own versions of "Let's Get this Bread", inspired by Panera.
"Let's Get this Bread" is the best performing tweet about Panera on Twitter. Ever.
Since our original tweet, mentions of the meme have increased by 350%.
With a solid point of differentiation and a consumer-first strategy on social media, Panera dominated the conversation online, with Twitter as a primary vehicle -
1. Panera exceeded our yearly goal for brand mentions by 300%
2. We created our own top tweet, which generated 20.3MM impressions, 764K engagements, 1.7K replies, and 140K social media mentions
3. We gave fans a product made for social sharing, which doubled sales of sourdough in the first week in our test market of Philadelphia
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