• Matt Black

A Billion Reasons Why Applebee's #TasteTheChange Campaign is the Way Forward

Every once in a while, a large multi-national brand rolls out a campaign that sets the social and digital worlds on fire. High levels of engagement, coast-to-coast community building, multiple influencers involved, a ton of exposure…

Applebee’s #TasteTheChange is all that and more, leading many marketers to fully buy in to what they already know: live-streaming is the future.

Thanks to platforms like Meerkat and Periscope – and perhaps most importantly, a willingness to fully embrace and employ technology in their marketing – Applebee’s is leading the way when it comes to drawing in eyeballs, creating conversation and bringing customers to their restaurants.

Oh, and I hear their new menu is outstanding, which definitely helps.

After an extremely successful activation in Times Square, Applebee’s decided to up the ante and focus on the restaurant experience. While taking over the Big Apple was epic in its own right, there’s something to be said about sticking to your bread and butter as well. With 2 million free appetizers to give away, 12 hours of streaming planned and numerous live look-ins at locations across the U.S., #TasteTheChange was real marketing, with real people, in real-time.

Historically speaking, many big brands get a bad rap for being impersonal or too robotic in how they market their products and services. And while I’m sure many of them would love to let their hair down a little, it’s much easier to play it safe in an effort to keep their image squeaky clean.

There’s something intoxicating (and terrifying!) about putting your brand in the hands of your customers without any major filters or a laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.” Think about it: during #TasteTheChange, Applebee’s welcomed live-streaming parties, where realistically anything could have happened. But brands who appreciate the power of now assume that risk because they know the guaranteed positives outweigh the potential negatives.

Here’s why I think Applebee’s #TasteTheChange is the way forward:

Power to the people

Human beings are inherently drawn towards interaction and participation; the more they can actually make an impact, or create a change, the more likely they are to become involved in something.

That’s why campaigns like #TasteTheChange are so enticing to us. Applebee’s essentially opened their doors, cleared the airwaves for their customers, and said “hey, we’re trying some new things out and want to hear what YOU think about them!”

Who isn’t going to bite at that opportunity? *Pun intended.*

They also cut to Applebee’s locations in Miami, Boston, Baltimore, Orlando, Fort Worth, Denver and Charlotte, which gave viewers of the live-streams access to customers they had never met before and communities they may have never been to before. Being able to see others tasting the new menu items, sharing lots of laughs and enjoying their afternoon/evening adds something genuinely human to these marketing efforts. Putting names to faces, meeting restaurant managers and employees, hearing stories about Applebee’s experiences… it all adds up to create an infectious atmosphere that people want to be a part of.

Instead of clicking away, they’re trying to click to join.

Creating touch points like #TasteTheChange generates good will for the brand – and not just because there’s free food involved. There are simply too many companies slowly backing their way into the Social Age because they know they must in order to survive. On the other hand, Applebee’s is taking advantage of the fact that their customers want to be heard, that want to take part in shaping the direction the brand goes.

Cue the conversation

From Time.com to BusinessInsider.com, campaigns like #TasteTheChange make headlines.

After all, it isn’t every day that 2,000,000 appetizers are offered to customers – free of charge.

Creating conversation around the Applebee’s brand – all of which was essentially shaped by the customers themselves – and making it accessible around the globe is an extremely innovative strategy.

Let’s examine the guts of #TasteTheChange for a second:

- A panel of three social media power users hosted the day’s events on behalf of Applebee’s

- A #StreamTeam was assembled across the United States who went live on Meerkat or Persicope via applebees.com

- Lots of free food off a new menu design.

While there’s a hell of a lot of planning and execution to make all of that happen without any major glitches, my favourite element of #TasteTheChange is its minimalism:

Show the world how much fun it is to be at Applebee’s with your friends and family.

That’s basically it! And while I’m likely oversimplifying, the conversation we’re all having after the fact is how great Applebee’s is and how excellent their recent marketing efforts have been.

I like to think there’s also an innate element of digital education with a campaign like #TasteTheChange, because let’s face it, not every employee or existing customer is necessarily a social media expert. So it also opens a dialogue as to how live-streaming can be used to build brands and relationships with their customers.

Influencers matter

For all brands, trust is huge.

Not only trust that products offered or services rendered are going to deliver as promised, but that the brand is ethical, and that it cares … cares about its people, the environment, its customers.

But asides from being a hundred plus year-old company, how can this sort of faith be cultivated? Are slick marketing taglines in TV commercials enough?

The truth is, not really.

People trust people, and a voice of authority, argues Daniel Newman (@danielnewmanUV). Influencer marketing, whether you’re for it or against it, gives brands a legitimate shot at transparency and objectivity, especially when the influencer is genuine in his or her support of the business. Juxtaposing your brand with individuals who are “in the know” can only amplify your marketing message.

Applebee’s recognized the power of tapping into influencers, and brought in Brian Fanzo (@iSocialFanz), Sunny Lenarduzzi (@SunnyLenarduzzi) and Vincenzo Landino (@vincenzolandino) to host the live-streaming coverage for #TasteTheChange. Not only are these three at the forefront of utilizing video for brand management and community building purposes, but they’re also highly visible in the world of social. Knowing full well that a) they all know what they’re talking about, b) that others are drawn in by their involvement and c) they’re some of the brightest minds in digital marketing today, Applebee’s demonstrated why partnering up with influencers works to the tune of 1,000,000,000 impressions on July 21st.

While only Applebee’s knows the exact ROI that #TasteTheChange has produced, they’ve created a believer in me. Brands who embrace the exciting possibilities that social media and technology have presented all businesses with are set up nicely for success. The importance of empowering your customers, starting conversations and partnering with genuine people can’t be overstated.

What did you enjoy most about Applebee’s #TasteTheChange campaign on July 21st? How have other brands been using live-streaming to roll out their marketing strategy? Please share your thoughts with me in the Comments section below.


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