In 2015, Arby's was introducing its newest addition to the menu, Brown Sugar Bacon.
Unfortunately, the bacon trend was nothing new and many competitors had already jumped on the bandwagon. To break through the clutter, engage with consumers and possibly even "out bacon" the bacon trend, the brand needed a bold marketing idea, something that toed the line of acceptability, a program that other, similar brands would be too afraid to attempt.
That's exactly what we did, developing a program targeting Arby's anti-audience, vegetarians, with the Arby's Vegetarian Support program.
With our target audience of meat lovers in mind, we set out to drive sales of the brand's new Brown Sugar Bacon and foster long-term brand affinity. A pivotal moment for the brand, as Arby's was transitioning from industry competitor to industry leader. This program would help solidify that transformation.
Our program needed to meet the following objectives:
Increase Sales: Driving sales of Arby's Brown Sugar Bacon was especially important during Q3 2015 as we needed to continue the brand's streak of industry sales outperformance.
Spur Consumer Engagement: While we didn't have specific channel objectives (e.g., X number of YouTube views), we did have a general goal of generating increased social conversation and engagement around our key program components and brand. More conversation lends itself to increased trial.
Generate Media Coverage: This program was led by an earned media strategy. Coverage that praised Arby's bold approach to marketing would help influence consumers and drive the long-term brand affinity Arby's coveted.
To introduce Arby's new Brown Sugar Bacon and energize our meat-loving consumers, we aimed a humorous, sensationalized message at Arby's anti-audience – vegetarians – with a fully integrated "Vegetarian Support" campaign. To continue embellishment, we created components resembling an actual "support program" and introduced our campaign with a targeted earned media approach.
Vegetarian Support Hotline (1-855-MEAT-HLP) offering pre-recorded messages of support for vegetarians who were tempted by or had already caved to the lure of Arby's new Brown Sugar Bacon. Callers who had tried the bacon could leave messages to relieve their guilt.
Open Letter penned from Arby's to vegetarians across America explaining how Arby's would help vegetarians avoid this new product. This letter became our press release announcing the campaign.
Sizzling PSA (YouTube Video) promoting the hotline.
Vegetarian Support Webpage, Arbys.com/vegetariansupport, housed the above resources for vegetarians in dire need of help.
Crisis Plan to help "protect" the brand should from any negative stories or boisterous vegetarians.
With creative assets in hand, we secured an exclusive campaign launch news story with Time.com. On Tuesday, July, 7, the "Arby's Launches Bacon Hotline for 'Tempted' Vegetarians" article posted in Time.com's "Newsfeed" section featuring the hotline number – 1-855-MEAT-HLP, an embedded link to our PSA-like YouTube video (to drive clicks to Arby's YouTube channel) and a link to our microsite, Arbys.com/vegetariansupport.
After researching various media outlets for the exclusive, we approached Time.com, specifically reporter Olivia Waxman, because of the opportunity to place a story with a highly visible, social and shareable media outlet, and with a writer not afraid to write bold stories and take risks. This approach ensured reverberation among other highly visible media outlets creating a domino effect of third-party media syndication.
From past experiences placing media stories on behalf of Arby's, we knew that if we secured a story focusing on our Vegetarian Support program with a top-tier outlet, the resulting media firestorm would be extraordinary – the mass awareness that would follow would most certainly deliver the consumer engagement the program was hoping to achieve. If successful, we determined that this media firestorm would be so robust, that no paid media support (outside of social) would be needed.
With long-term brand affinity in mind, our results achieved the objectives for the Vegetarian Support program across sales, consumer engagement and media coverage.
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