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Chains tap new digital marketing options to target specific groups

Chains tap new digital marketing options to target specific groups

More chains are augmenting traditional advertising media by using innovative digital channels to reach particular kinds of core users through new targeted-marketing efforts.

Wendy’s International has conducted two digital campaigns to reach 18- to 34-year-old consumers in bars and nightclubs. White Castle is featured in a video game targeting a young crowd, and the firm Wicked PR recently created an online blog for sandwich chain Krystal.

Of course, each of the chains continues to run traditional print and broadcast campaigns that reach a mass market, but their alternative efforts are more finely tuned to relate to narrower audiences.

One of Wendy’s interactive campaigns is featured on touch-screen music players—a digital version of the old-fashioned jukebox—in 5,100 bars and nightclubs located within one mile of a Wendy’s restaurant.

“You think about music, and you know how relevant it is to people’s lifestyles,” Wendy’s spokesman Bob Bertini said. “It gives us an opportunity to be in an environment that’s hugely relevant to our target consumer.”

The chain’s “Core Burger” campaign, which ran through March, and one in January that promoted the new Stack Attack double cheeseburger appeared on the broadband touch-screen media network developed by San Francisco-based Ecast to feed digital music to entertainment venues.

Bar patrons touch the screen to pick a song, and while they’re browsing through playlists each screen that comes up has a “touchable” ad that leads to a full-screen microsite for the advertiser.

When bar patrons touched the Wendy’s “Core Burger” ad they saw a sizzling burger and, if they were hungry, they could find the address of the nearest Wendy’s restaurant.

And many bar patrons apparently want a meal after they’ve finished drinking. Forty-three percent of the 8 million people who use Ecast every month say they are looking for a place to eat, said George Giatzis, Ecast’s senior vice president of sales.

Wendy’s is evaluating results of the campaigns and is “looking at other opportunities” for similar efforts, Bertini said.

“It’s something we’re really excited about,” he said.

Many marketers are excited about new advertising options, according to Stamford, Conn.-based PQ Media. Its recent Alternative Media Forecast predicted that total spending on digital out-of-home ads, video games, webisodes and other alternative ad platforms will grow 20.2 percent this year to $88.24 billion.

An example is Columbus, Ohio-based White Castle’s debut in video games like “Arctic Stud Poker Run.” The chain’s presence in the game is not as ubiquitous as Burger King’s role in a series of 2006 Xbox games that starred its King ad character, his “girlfriend”—model Brooke Burke—and BK’s viral character Subservient Chicken.

Still, White Castle and its signature Slyder burgers are featured in 28 of the 126 levels of the action-packed poker game. “Arctic Stud Poker Run” combines racing with combat as players try to assemble a winning hand. As they race and fight, players can grab and eat virtual Slyders to increase their stamina.

A demo version of the game has a link to White Castle’s website, and coupons redeemable for free burgers are attached to the game’s retail boxes.

“How do we encourage folks to spend some time with our brand in a way that’s authentic?” asked Jamie Richardson, vice president of marketing for the 412-unit chain. “We know there are lot of young folks everywhere discovering White Castle. This is a natural fit.”

Video games don’t replace traditional marketing, but “certainly helps supplement it,” he said. “It tells a more complete [brand] story to connect with people in a different way.”

The 400-unit Krystal, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., has targeted “Krystal lovers” better with its blog, , which went live in early March with posts written by Wicked PR staffers. Among recent posts was one with a photo of someone dressed as Burger King’s King visiting a New Orleans Krystal, a “Six Degrees of Krystal” item linking tabloid queen Britney Spears to the chain, and items promoting Krystal products and its social-networking site.

Consumers are using blogs, podcasts, and video-sharing sites to hold conversations, and “if you want to engage that audience you can’t come in as an interloper,” said Brian Cooley, the Wicked agency’s co-owner.

“You have to be a part of the community,” he said. “Krystalist is a way for us to join in the conversation.”

Blog visitors are encouraged to suggest stories or items they’d like to see.

“We’re just starting to get some feedback from customers, especially those who have their own blogs,” said Colin Cooley, the agency’s other co-owner. “It’s a great space for them to learn about new things at Krystal before everyone else does.”

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