Stealth Ads: How Restaurants Are Building Customer Loyalty On YouTube

Mar 14 2014, 11:04am CDT | by

Stealth Ads: How Restaurants Are Building Customer Loyalty On YouTube
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Consumers are increasingly fast-forwarding past traditional TV ads, long the bastion of chain-restaurant marketing. How can eateries keep their brand in customers’ minds?

A growing number of savvy chains are turning to YouTube and posting informational or instructional videos designed to inform and amuse diners — and keep their brand top of mind. From there, if a brand is lucky, social-media sharing spreads their “useful” videos far and wide.

It’s a way of reaching out to customers with something that’s not the usual, relentless “Come in for our $2.99 chicken special” type of hard-sell ad.

Here are a few examples of the restaurants using the YouTube info-video approach, and the angles they’re taking to draw customers in.

Build loyalty with transparency

When the rumor mill turned yet again with urban legends about gross stuff that might be in its signature Chicken McNuggets, McDonald's responded not with a staid press release, but with a video tour of its McNugget-making plant at supplier Cargill's factory in Canada.

Posted to YouTube, the matter-of-fact video puts to rest the idea that ammonia-treated beef sometimes called pink slime or pink goop might be in the McNuggets.

By pulling back the curtain on its production process, McDonald’s reassures diners the food is wholesome. Message: We don’t have any secrets from you. You can trust us to feed you.

Provide useful information

In the case of national seafood chain Red Lobster, the chosen approach is how-to information that makes it more likely you’ll come visit. To be specific, a “Lobster Crackin’ 101″ video featuring company chef Heidi Lane.

The pro-looking, Food Network-style video comes off as pure info-tainment — even though it’s really a social-media ad for the chain. “Come see us today and try out your new skills!” Lane concludes at the end of the video, after showing us her tricks for getting the last bit of lobster meat out of the skinny legs.

Be useful — and funny

Another recent example of how-to bonding comes from Buffalo Wild Wings The chain posted a series of “Fandamentals” videos on how to get the most out of the March Madness college basketball season, including this one on how to identify Cinderella teams:

Here, the association with the chain is less direct, but the message is there — be a fan of our brand, too, and celebrate March Madness at a Wild Wings near you.

Show our values align

One of the first chains to make strong use of YouTube videos was Chipotle. Its approach won’t be for every chain, but making a strong stand against factory farming in its “Back to the Start” cartoon got it a ton of buzz.

Where will restaurant videos go next? Chipotle has since moved on to video brand-building at another level — they’ve got a four-episode original series on Hulu, Farmed and Dangerous. You might think the show would be a thriller, but it’s more of a dark comedy about “the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.”

In other words, more of Chipotle’s brand philosophy, but wrapped in a more sophisticated and longer-form package. Here, Chipotle goes beyond the info-video and veers into edu-tainment.

Lest you think the company takes itself too seriously with its sustainable-farming crusade, the show opens with a faux commercial that self-satirizes Chipotle’s anti-factory farming stance: “These hippies want to manipulate you into believing that real food is better than processed food,” intones series star Ray Wise of Twin Peaks fame, who plays the head of the evil Industrial Food Image Bureau, of I.F.I.B. “Smells like communism to me.”

The plot of the first episode — which has garnered 43,000 Facebook ‘likes’ — revolves around a Big Agriculture company’s new product. The Petro Pellet is a petroleum-based feed for livestock meant to replace plant-based feed, while enriching oil companies and factory farm conglomerates. Drawback: The pellets occasionally make cows explode.

If the show catches on, expect more restaurants to follow suit — not with issue-oriented videos, but with sponsorships of their own niche online shows. When customers don’t watch ads anymore, creating the content ensures your restaurant’s name gets heard.

For more on restaurants, check out the Top 10 Global Fast-Food Brands.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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