If you happen to see Arby’s ads or one of their social media posts, you’ll likely find the brand’s creativity and sense of humor in their marketing strategy.
With many popular brands struggling on social media, Arby’s strategy is to get the hearts of the whole geekdom via gaming and pop culture papercraft creations. With the help of a creative digital agency called the Roar Group, they came up with pop-culture inspired concepts and boy, are they beautiful!
In an interview by SweetyHigh, Arby’s senior director of digital and social media Josh Martin revealed why they took this kind of approach. He said:
If you looked at our branded content across social, it all looked very promotional and the same as everyone else. Early on, Roar pushed us to test a post around a potato cakes Triforce. We just took our triangular potato cakes and put them in the shape of a Triforce. When we tested that among a gamer audience and tech audience, it exploded. The comments and the shares exceeded anything we‘d done in the past, and we knew we were on to something.
Arby’s started moving away from tweeting pictures of food and basic ads in late 2015. The company began focusing its creative efforts into crafting their food and creating art references to popular television shows, movies, and video games. And until now, these pop-culture references make up the majority of Arby’s social media posts.
“We’re not trying to sell anybody on any product in our social advertising anymore,” said Martin. “We’re just trying to engage and build that kind of brand love on the platform”.
Since the change, Arby’s, which has 3,300 stores across the US, has garnered a 13 percent lift in the overall brand discussion on social. Although Arby’s maintains Twitter and Instagram feeds, Facebook—where the brand has nearly three million likes—is its “bread and butter,” said Martin. And with the change on Facebook, it saw double the number of shares, 80% more comments and 23% more likes. Over the past year, the number of gaming mentions grew by 2,292%.
Most of the time, Arby’s heed is for popular video games such as “The Legend of Zelda” or “Final Fantasy” by crafting characters, symbols or objects out of its own cardboard packaging. The team then takes these creations and pairs them with a menu item in photos, videos, and GIFS. Other times, the team uses ketchup packets to draw them.
Martin also said that consumers won’t give the time of day to boring, bland brand posts. “When somebody’s scrolling through their News Feed,” said Martin, “we’re competing with pictures of their friends.”
“Speed is very important when it comes to these type of posts in order to hit on trending topics,” he said. For example, if a Nintendo Switch post was currently trending on Twitter, they have to make a new ad regarding the Switch console. Just like when Pokemon Go achieved overnight popularity last July. Martin’s team reacted within the first couple of days the app went viral, sharing a Facebook photo of a red cardboard symbol of Mystic, one of the game’s teams. The post is one the brand’s most liked and shared—it got 141,00 reactions, 46,269 shares, and 13,000 comments.
Arby’s is not the sort of fast-food restaurant one generally associates with gaming. That’s traditionally been the realm of brands like Taco Bell or McDonald’s. Arby’s sees itself as a step above basic fast food, somewhere between basic and fast-casual. It’s not a restaurant someone stops by for a quick fix. Or at least it wasn’t.
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“One thing that we’ve found that’s interesting in the comments is we are tapping into these audiences that have this passion point for gaming,” said Martin. “What’s happening is it’s opening their eyes towards considering us again. A lot of these people have never talked to us before or even thought about Arby’s.”
“We’re a fan of these games, the people who work on this stuff are huge fans too, and that’s the lens we come through as we create this stuff,” said Martin. “People are very appreciative with the ‘Hey Arby’s, you get us’ and ‘Love to check you guys out.’ Those are the conversations we’re tapping into, and it’s a lot of fun.”
As one commenter wrote, “Is it kind of weird that after years of hating Arby’s, seeing these little things relating to video games got me to eat them again?”
“We’re speaking their language.”