CAMPAIGNS: Outrageous stunts drive T.G.I. Friday's - Brand Awareness

Client: T.G.I. Friday's PR Team: Companycare Communications Campaign: Outrage Us Timescale: July-September 2003 Budget: Agency retainer plus £10,000 for media kits

Despite being renowned for its energetic waiting staff and party atmosphere, after 17 years in the UK market, T.G.I. Friday's wanted to liven up its image and boost sales in the traditionally quiet summer season.

The restaurant chain had a new summer menu to promote, but the challenge for retained agency Companycare Communications was to spark media interest in a restaurant that wasn't new, and that had not received even one restaurant review for its previous summer menu.

Objectives

To generate positive reviews of the new menu. To project an image of the T.G.I. Friday's brand as fun and irreverent, build brand awareness across regional media, and to encourage entries to the website. Ultimately to drive more customers to the restaurants.

Strategy and Plan

The campaign theme 'Outrage Us' arose from a well-known T.G.I. Friday's dessert that was being reintroduced to the menu. 'Outrageous', a huge portion of ice-cream and chocolate, was seen as a strong symbol of the chain's basic brand values.

The campaign kicked off with media relations targeting regional publications in areas with T.G.I. Friday's restaurants. Journalists were sent a lurid Hawaiian shirt with an invitation to try something more tasteful at their local T.G.I. Friday's, and follow-up calls were made to arrange reviews.

Competitions were also placed within regional titles.

Companycare and T.G.I's then worked alongside online marketers Blue Barracuda, in association with AOL, to produce an online competition, inviting people to say what outrageous things they would do with £1,000.

The winner of the competition, who won £1,000, chose to tour the world in a bath of melted chocolate on wheels being pulled along by six hunky men, although a popular choice for competition entrants was to pinch Kylie's backside as many times as possible before being arrested. The competition certainly sparked the imagination of some entrants. Other fantasies ranged from the surreal - blocking the Channel Tunnel with a huge cork to stop the French getting in - to the downright bizarre - dancing in the Queen's bedroom, naked, while shaving a ferret.

Each store also handed out empty ice-cream tubs in their local area, inviting people to come into the restaurants and have them filled.

The PR team then encouraged and worked with staff in each branch to generate publicity themselves. The chain's waiters and waitresses - or 'dub dubs' as they are known - took to the streets near Friday's restaurants dressed in bikinis or beach shorts and carrying surfboards.

The aim was simply to be seen doing something outrageous. Two staff posed in front of Buckingham Palace wearing nothing more than a strategically placed surfboard. Staff from Coventry attended the Big Brother evictions dressed as chickens, while Leeds staff challenged members of the public to eat as many tubs of ice cream as possible in a specific timeframe.

Measurement and Evaluation

Eighteen restaurant reviews followed the campaign, including those in Take A Break, the Glasgow Evening Times, the Birmingham Post, the Cardiff Post, the Reading Evening Post, the South Wales Echo, the Sunday Mercury, the Daily Record in Scotland, the Northampton Chronicle and the Stockport Express.

Radio coverage was obtained on large commercial stations such as Capital FM and Birmingham's BRMB.

Restaurant staff who dressed up in outrageous T-shirts, carried a surfboard and threw giant T.G.I. Friday's beach balls at the Reading music festival were shown on MTV. Other TV coverage included Friday's staff in loud t-shirts at the men's quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

Results

The campaign generated a record number of reviews for the chain. Most of the journalists ordered the dishes they were encouraged to choose, so the new menu items were mentioned in many of the reviews. All 18 reviewers gave a positive appraisal of their meals, with the Cardiff Post series and the Reading Evening Post among those highlighting the new signature dishes.

After the campaign, four of the new menu items went straight into the top ten sellers, from a menu of more than 60 items. Across all branches, an average of 14 per cent of ice-cream tubs handed out were brought in for redemption.

Overall, covers have risen but T.G.I. Friday's would not disclose by how much.

Take A Break magazine gave T.G.I. Friday's a 9/10 rating. However, while South Wales Daily Echo commercial features editor Maxine Ashford said she gave the restaurant a positive review, she did not mention the new menu items as she was not clear which they were. "I don't know if I had them," she admitted.

The online competition generated 2,200 entries and there were 16,000 visitors to that section of the restaurant's website.

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