Cracker Barrel chronicles couple's quest to visit all 645 of its locations

The brand's corporate communications team first learned of Ray and Wilma Yoder's goal to visit every store in the fall of 2015.

Company: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Campaign: Celebrating a Milestone 645 Stores in the Making: The Yoders Visit Every Single Cracker Barrel
Agency mix: Edelman division Edible (media outreach and event planning), Lead Foot 360 and Tunnel Vision Films (video production)
Duration: July – August 2017
Budget: Approximately $25,000

Ray and Wilma Yoder set out on a quest 40 years ago to visit all 645 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations. With the brand’s help, the couple finally completed their mission in late August.

Strategy
The brand's corporate communications team first learned of the Yoders' goal to visit every store in the fall of 2015. The team began giving the Yoders insider information on when and where new stores were expected to open to help them plan out their travels.

In the summer of 2017, as the Yoders neared the completion of their quest, Cracker Barrel wanted to create a campaign to celebrate the milestone in both the lives of Ray and Wilma and in the history of the brand.

"What was most important to us about the Yoders’ journey was that it demonstrates the deep emotional connection that our guests have with the brand," explained Janella Escobar, Cracker Barrel's director of corporate communications. "We believe that guests feel more at home when they visit a Cracker Barrel than when they dine at other restaurants."

The campaign team looked to develop a compelling, shareable story that would create an emotional connection for consumers and media. The goal was to generate media coverage and pop culture buzz, as well as reinforce the brand’s values of comfort and consistency.

"We targeted a wide range of media outlets, including general mainstream news, consumer lifestyle outlets, national and local TV news, as well as daytime talk shows," said Escobar.

To drive social conversation, the brand created the hashtag #AdventuresofWilmaAndRay.

Tactics
In July 2017, Cracker Barrel invited Ray and Wilma to the opening of a new store in Lavonia, Georgia, which marked the couple's 644th store visit. On a road trip from their hometown in Indiana, Cracker Barrel’s comms team invited the couple to lunch at the brand's hometown store in Lebanon, Tennessee. A reporter from the Lebanon Democrat attended the lunch to source content for a story, which was published on July 6.

The Lebanon Democrat story was picked up by top-tier outlets, including Good Morning America, Fox News, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! The initial wave of coverage resulted in over 400 placements.

To generate a second wave of media coverage, the campaign team arranged an appearance for the Yoders on Fox News. The anchor surprised the Yoders on-air with news that the brand was sending them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Portland, Oregon, to complete their journey.

On August 28, Ray and Wilma visited the 645th Cracker Barrel store outside Portland. The event was attended by local Portland media and covered by outlets nationwide.

"To create a compelling moment for media that still remained true to the brand, we had a special welcome sign made for the front porch," said Escobar. "The store’s employees greeted Ray and Wilma with a clap tunnel leading out of the front doors of the store as soon as they arrived, and presented them each with their own Cracker Barrel apron with their names on it and a set of our iconic rockers."

Edible managed media outreach and assisted in event planning at the Portland store. Lead Foot 360 and Tunnel Vision Films produced video content chronicling the Yoders' quest.

Results
Ray and Wilma’s tale has been featured in over 1,600 news articles and broadcast stories. Coverage highlights include: Live with Kelly and Ryan, USA Today, Good Morning America, Today.com, BuzzFeed, Mashable, NPR, Time magazine, Fox News, People, Travel + Leisure, Country Living, Delish, Food & Wine, The Food Network, Thrillist, Eater, New York Post, and Refinery29.

Shared on owned social channels, the news of the Yoders' free trip to Portland received 1,000 more engagements than the brand's top performing Facebook post in July and 700 more engagements than the top performing Twitter post in July.

The 645th visit video has been viewed over 100,000 times across social networks since its August 29 release.

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