Culver's touts quality in new ads

Culver’s has debuted the latest commercial in its “Welcome to Delicious” campaign, featuring co-founder Craig Culver talking to the quick-service chain’s beef supplier about the never-frozen, Midwest-raised beef in its signature ButterBurgers.

Two earlier advertisements in the campaign showed Culver walking around the Wisconsin farms where Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s sources the dairy for its frozen custard and the cheese for its sandwiches.

In the latest “Welcome to Delicious” commercial, Culver also demonstrates how ButterBurgers are seared and cooked on the grill at the 437 Culver’s restaurants across the United States.

Watch Culver's latest "Welcome to Delicious" commercial. Story continued below.

While some chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Papa John’s Pizza have emphasized product quality as a differentiating factor in their marketing from the beginning, other brands more recently have made quality the focus.

Since the end of 2009, Domino’s Pizza has steered its reformulated pizza and accompanying marketing campaign to sales success. Wendy’s also returned to food quality promotions with its last two “You Know When It’s Real” and “It’s Way Better than Fast Food” campaigns after struggling with its marketing message after the death of founder Dave Thomas, who starred in quality-focused commercials.

Culver’s “Welcome to Delicious” campaign launched in March, but the sourcing of fresh beef and searing burgers to order dates back to the chain’s founding in 1984, said vice president of marketing David Stidham.

“Our new commercial shows the care and quality that goes into a Culver’s ButterBurger,” Stidham said. “‘Welcome to Delicious’ highlights the brilliantly basic elements that make the restaurant a guest favorite time and time again.

“It’s a simple, yet deeply authentic story that is unfolding across television, radio, print advertising, in-restaurant signage, packaging, and digital and social media throughout 2011,” he said.

Whether a brand has just recently turned to product quality as its advertising focus or has touted it from day one, chain executives report that quality claims have allowed them to get a pricing premium over rivals that are discounting aggressively in this economy.

Papa John’s Pizza always has made food quality central to its advertising under the “Better ingredients, better pizza” slogan. But chief marketing officer Andrew Varga said that marketing strategy is still paying off, even as its two biggest competitors push aggressive discounts in the pizza segment and advertise products that undercut Papa John’s $11 premium pizzas.

“We believe that, as the quality leader, we can get a premium relative to our competition set,” Varga said Wednesday during the chain’s second-quarter earnings call. “We’ve been at $11 since mid-February, and our competition has stayed at prices well below that … They all seem to be at the same spot, and we try to do what we do best, which is to leverage our premium position and our product quality.”

Papa John’s domestic same-store sales in the quarter ended June 26 rose 2.1 percent at its 595 domestic company-owned stores, partially offset by a 0.1-percent decline at its 2,393 domestic franchised stores. Varga added that Papa John’s would increase its advertising spending in the second half of 2011.

“We’ll have more media weight and weeks on TV than we’ve ever had as a result of our increased contributions to our national marketing fund,” he said.

Since Culver’s debuted the “Welcome to Delicious” campaign March 17, its same-store sales have increased year-over-year nearly every week, the company said.

Culver’s is almost completely franchised and operates in 19 states.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] [3].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN [4]