OVERLAND PARK Kan. Applebee’s Grill & Bar is taking an edgier tack in its marketing with the launch of an ad campaign that features a wisecracking apple.
The overhaul also extends to redesigns of the concept’s logo, menu and uniforms, and the chain is experimenting with new building designs as well.
Ad spots featuring the Red Delicious “spokesapple” will appear on television during such programs as “Desperate Housewives” and “Extreme Makeover” and on online social connection websites like Reunion.com, Classmates.com and Evite.com. The TV ads are scheduled to premiere on Sunday.
The apple — supposedly a 34-year-old female New Yorker — already has “her” own profile page on MySpace.com, one of the internet’s most heavily trafficked networking sites.
The theme of the campaign is bringing people together, according to the chain’s franchisor, Applebee’s International Inc. here. The first TV commercial ends with the tagline, “Applebee’s. Get it together, baby.” The apple’s voice is provided by the sharp-tongued comedienne Wanda Sykes.
The spots were developed by McCann Erickson, Applebee’s agency of record as of the past summer. The chain’s annual advertising expenditures are estimated to total $180 million.
As part of the new marketing effort, Applebee’s has revamped its logo to prominently depict an apple above the brand name. The franchisor describes it as “more modern, identifiable and functional for a variety of uses.”
The logo adorns the concept’s new uniform: a black collared or button-down shirt worn with jeans or black pants.
“This is just the beginning of a brand restaging that will make Applebee’s more relevant to our guests,” chief marketing officer George Williams said in a statement.
The new marketing effort comes as Applebee’s is battling a prolonged sales and earnings slump and preparing for a change in ownership. On Tuesday, the company’s shareholders will vote on a $2.3 billion purchase by family-restaurant franchisor IHOP Corp. Although the $25.50-per-share buyout has been endorsed by a majority of Applebee’s directors, five of the 14, including three insiders, have publicly opposed the merger because of concerns about the valuation.
Applebee’s domestic same-store sales for the first nine months of 2007 fell year over year by 1.8 percent, according to the company.
Applebee’s consists of 1,953 restaurants worldwide, including 510 corporate restaurants that IHOP said it intends to sell to franchisees if the merger is completed. Most of IHOP’s 1,319 pancake restaurants are franchised.