Everyone knows that Instagram is THE visual channel, filled with cookie-cutter ads that users mindlessly scroll through, typically giving posts less than three seconds of their attention. Our objective from Arby’s was straightforward: get people to stop mindlessly scrolling and actually engage with Arby’s posts and, ultimately, to become the most engaged-with QSR on social media.
How would we do this? We decided to meet users where they are already interacting on social and create visually interesting content that would make people not only take notice, but also get excited about Arby’s. So our challenge was to identify niche-yet-engaged audiences, then engage with them through conversations on Instagram as a fellow fan, talking TO people instead of AT them.
Instagram is a visual-first channel, so we needed something unique to make users stop and look. To stand out from other QSRs on social media, we did the unexpected by creating unique, handcrafted and meticulous art built from Arby’s packaging materials, all based around niche fandoms like gaming, pop culture and anime. By creating analog content on a digital platform with our packaging builds, we were able to draw a clear connection between the care Arby’s puts into its food and the care it puts into its art.
The strategy was to stand out by blending in with other artists, fans and creators, which meant getting creative with our content. The first thing that had to go was appealing to a mass audience. Instead, we hit niche audiences where the content was much more relevant. By employing a self-deprecating, not-too-serious tone and making the packaging art and fandom connections the initial point of interest, people were able to see Arby’s as a fellow fan, and not a brand.
To implement our strategy, we identified and tapped into key moments that Arby’s social audiences are already paying attention to by creating content that pushes the limits of imagination from a QSR. Our first audience was gaming. We explored it when it wasn’t relevant or big, then experimented with various audiences and elements of gaming, which ultimately gave us the opportunity to expand our approach to own and show our credibility to our fans. Then we honed in on sub-groups within gaming. Arby’s goal: pinpoint and embrace the true fan in each sub-group as an individual and give each an opportunity to “geek out” with the brand through social media.
Not everyone is passionate about the same thing, certainly, but Arby’s wanted to engage and build a coalition of fans from every corner of the geek/nerd world. As a true "high-risk, high-reward" challenge, the brand set out to relate and converse with these fans on their level of authenticity and knowledge.
We went after “The True Fan” to reach people who considered themselves insiders on a particular topic. The canvas for reaching Arby’s audience included iconography meticulously crafted from Arby’s food and packaging. The original artwork was crafted from scratch and came in many forms, including static imagery, animated GIFs and short videos.
Our uniquely Arby’s content on Instagram bridged the gap between fan and brand, allowing us to continue to communicate with the audience in an authentic, unexpected way.
Our fellow fan strategy on Instagram, paired with the strength of our visually creative, niche-focused content, proved highly successful. The number of followers for the @Arbys account grew by nearly 19% year over year, primarily because of the strategy to reach more niche yet engaged audiences. Additionally, the @Arbys account had an organic social engagement rate of over 12% for 2019.
Many comments articulated not just our audience’s love for the posts, but also their intention to start and/or continue eating at Arby’s:
• “That’s it, I’m only going to Arby’s. The social media team is too damn good.”
• “You best believe you gained a customer.”
• “Ima have to start eating at Arby’s now.”
• “Guess where I’m having lunch the rest of the week.”
• “I was about to make a turn into my McDonald’s but now I’m pulling up to Arby’s drive thru since I saw this.”
• “I haven’t eaten Arby’s in years. But their marketing team is about to change that.”
• “This made me decide to go to Arby’s today. Just know that this advertising is working.”
• "Arby’s is honestly the best fast food chain with food quality and social media quality.”
• “I think I’m madly in love with Arby’s 😳.”
• “You guys just keep getting better and better, you're already the best because of your roast beef sandwiches tho but this makes it better.”
• “You guys have the best Instagram account out of every other restaurant.”
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