Arby’s breaks first social-network campaign to generate a ‘brigade’ of advocates for the brand

ATLANTA —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The “Arby’s Rescue Brigade” campaign includes TV spots, but a microsite at www.arbysrescuebrigade.com , where visitors can audition to join the brigade, and the Facebook page are the major media Arby’s is using to extend its “I’m Thinking Arby’s” campaign, which launched three years ago with TV spots. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

“What we’re trying to do with the brigade is create a group of brand advocates,” said Cheryl Barre, chief marketing officer for the 3,700-unit chain. “Our goal is to become the most recommended fast-food brand.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Other chains have turned to social networks to augment their traditional marketing efforts. Dallas-based Chili’s [3] Grill & Bar was one of the first to go on MySpace, sponsoring an online performance by rap-blues singer Yung Joc. Bar-B-Cutie [4], based in Nashville, Tenn., used MySpace and YouTube to attract potential franchisees. Seattle-based Starbucks [5] has a Facebook page, and family-dining chain Denny’s [6] tested a Facebook page in 2006 to target younger customers. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Most traditional ad campaigns are supported with some type of online effort, but using social networks is almost becoming a requirement to broaden a chain’s targeting, said Jonathan Ressler, chief marketing officer for New York-based Ckrush Social, a social-media agency. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

“With social media, this is really an opportunity to involve the consumer,” he said. “The ultimate in social media is when the consumer is doing the heavy lifting for you.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The current Arby’s campaign also includes a viral initiative, 15-second streaming videos and a partnership with Yahoo! to feature the brigade on several of its high-traffic pages. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Arby’s even has posted an ad on Craigslist in its search for consumers who want to join the brigade. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The microsite contains profiles of current brigade members, whose leader is Captain John Maddox, also known as the Commander ’N Beef. Brigade members roam the country in a flashy rescue mobile and come to the aid of anyone who’s eating a “bland, unsatisfying fast-food meal.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Consumers have a chance to win free Arby’s food for a year and become the newest brigade member in a future commercial by sending a video to the site to audition for the job. The contest will run through June 30. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The first TV spot in the campaign, created by Omnicom Group’s Merkley & Partners of New York, focuses on the chain’s Philly Beef and Fajita Flatbread Melts. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The streaming videos showcase a few of Arby’s most popular snacks and shakes, including Loaded Potato Bites and the Berry Delight Swirl Shake. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

The mix of new media reflects the changing media habits of consumers, Barre said. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

News stories have pointed to the decline of TV viewership, and when consumers use a digital video recorder such as TiVo to skip past commercials, “the advertising message is not getting through the way it used to,” Barre said. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

But TV still is the most efficient media vehicle, she added, which is the reason the campaign includes traditional TV spots. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Still, Arby’s had to take into account that today’s consumers react differently to advertising than in the past, Barre said. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

“They’re in control, and they are less receptive to messages that are sort of foisted on them,” she said. “They’re more receptive when they choose to receive messages. We want to be there for them when they want to engage in the brand.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Facebook is ideal for reaching consumers younger than 25, she said, but the social-network site has grown to the point that consumers of all ages now use it. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

As with many other chains, the economy has hurt business at Arby’s, and “traffic is not growing,” Barre said. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Barre declined to say how much Arby’s is spending on the campaign but noted that even in this down economy spending has increased so that the chain can move “aggressively with new news and help our customers to find new ways to come to Arby’s.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Ressler said social-network campaigns need a strong element of consumer engagement to succeed. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

“If it’s just putting up a page, it probably won’t net any results,” he said. “Most importantly, the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality will not work. It could show how disconnected you are and how much you don’t know about the consumer.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Social-network campaigns must be structured to give consumers a tool to talk “in a viral way” about the passion they have for the brand, Ressler said. If they do, he added, “that’s a home run.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

Giving consumers an outlet to talk about a brand inevitably will generate negative comments, but Ressler said that could benefit the brand. —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.

“In all honesty, I don’t really think people saying bad things about your brand is the worst thing,” he said. “It’s the most honest research you’ll get.” —As a further sign that traditional marketing campaigns often need an online boost, Arby’s Restaurant Group is venturing into social networking with the launch of a Facebook page and other interactive elements to combat what it calls the “ho-hum everyday fast food” its competitors sell.