Cheesecake Factory leverages Valentine's Day to revitalize 30-year-old brand

The Cheesecake Factory decided last year to put a stronger emphasis on PR and marketing after operating for 30 years with nearly no marketing function besides basic publicity around new store openings.

Campaign: Share the Love/What's Your Flavor
Team: The Cheesecake Factory (Calabasas Hills, CA) and Murphy O'Brien Public Relations (Santa Monica, CA)
Duration: January 28-March 31, 2009
Budget: $700,000

Overview

The Cheesecake Factory decided last year to put a stronger emphasis on PR and marketing after operating for 30 years with nearly no marketing function besides basic publicity around new store openings. The "Share the Love" campaign was one of its first efforts.

“With a 30-year-old brand that's reaching a state of maturity... we needed an additional shot in the arm to help take us to a newer and higher level,” says Mark Mears, SVP and CMO at The Cheesecake Factory. Mears adds that the company was looking to engage and develop deeper relationships with current customers to keep the brand relevant, as well as reach out to new, potential guests.

Strategy
The campaign leveraged Valentine's Day to promote the theme of love and sharing. From late January through February consumers were encouraged to visit the microsite to participate in a contest where they could use an interactive tool to create a new cheesecake flavor. They could also submit text, videos, songs, and photos to explain the inspiration behind their flavor, all of which appeared on the microsite. After the submissions were narrowed to five flavors, people could vote for a winning flavor, which was announced on April 1.

Tactics

The team targeted media outlets throughout the country in an effort to garner buzz for the contest. “Ultimately, the end result would be driving a lot of traffic to the microsite and getting people to enter the contest,” says Susan Pasarow, SVP at Murphy O'Brien.

The microsite also featured a ‘flavor match' survey to help consumers find out which of the chain's flavors best fit their personality; they could then e-mail the results to others. Mears says this viral component was developed to help keep the company top of mind among consumers.

Results

Mentions in major broadcast media outlets like Entertainment Tonight and the Dr. Phil show were highly influential and got the word out about the campaign. “We were able to get a lot of coverage in all of our target markets, which was really important because this is a national brand,” Pasarow says.

The campaign contributed to a surge in traffic to The Cheesecake Factory's Web site. Participants submitted 10,000 flavor ideas, and cast 20,000 votes for a winning flavor. “The digital community has become such a force and such a way to get a message out to millions of people with a few keystrokes,” Mears says.

Additionally, the chain reported that its sales increased almost 4% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the last quarter of 2008, which Mears attributes, in part, to the campaign.

Future

The winning flavor will appear on the chain's menu later this summer, and the company will donate 25 cents from the sale of each slice to the charity Feeding America. The PR team will continue to roll out new initiatives and expansions for the campaign throughout 2009, including a focus on social media.

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