When bagel-shop operator Bruegger's hired Mason & Madison last September to handle PR, it wanted the agency to inject new energy into a chain that was expanding its menu and revamping its stores."We focused over the last six months on the infusion of a little more passion back into the brand," says Francis Onofrio, president of PR at the integrated agency.
The agency's role has expanded from supporting store openings and remodelings to more tactical work, adds Scott Hughes, VP of marketing with the bagel chain.
One issue Bruegger's faced was that holidays tend to cause a drop-off in sales because people aren't rushing to their offices and picking up bagels on the way to work as they would on a normal weekday. It wanted PR to help boost holiday sales.
Holidays do not normally lend themselves to bagel eating. People don't associate bagels with St. Patrick's Day, for example, the first holiday the agency and client decided to target for a PR push this year.
"We saw a date on the calendar where we felt we could use a sales push," Hughes says. "When you can drive one day of your week [to higher sales], you can carry through the whole week."
The agency and Bruegger's wanted something that would showcase the company's new store design, highlight its authentic bagel-cooking technique, and paint the company in a favorable light by demonstrating its sense of social responsibility.
Bruegger's had previously done a local promotion in one market with green bagels for St. Patrick's Day. Mason & Madison suggested expanding that to a national event and finding a charity tie-in that would harken back to the social responsibility theme. PR would focus on generating TV coverage.
The Feed the Children charity agreed to accept donations from sales of green bagels on St. Patrick's Day.
Green dough was produced two weeks before the holiday so b-roll could be filmed of green bagels being made in a newly redesigned Bruegger's shop. Consumer reaction was included in the video. One segment ran roughly 18 seconds without sound. A total of two minutes of video was made available.
To gain media attention for the video, it was express-mailed to stations in the company's top 11 markets, which include Boston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Station assignment editors were called two days before St. Patrick's Day to discuss the video and see if additional information was needed. Addresses of local stores were provided.
Nationally, the agency specifically targeted NBC's Today show for coverage. A Today producer was impressed by the charity tie-in and by the visual possibilities of green bagels. Bruegger's executive chef Philip Smith appeared on the show on St. Patrick's Day as Al Roker gave green bagels to the crowd outside the New York City studio.
Green bagels were also delivered to stations in the company's key markets on St. Patrick's Day morning, generating additional coverage on various local morning shows.
Bruegger's bakeries sold out of more than 27,000 green bagels on St. Patrick's Day. The buzz made that week one of the company's best sales weeks in the first quarter, says Hughes.
The story was covered in 25 TV spots, generating 5.74 million impressions. The average spot was 35 seconds. The Feed the Children tie-in was mentioned in nearly all coverage. Twenty percent of the green-bagel proceeds, roughly $2,500, was given to Feed the Children.
Bruegger's and Mason recently worked together on plans for a Memorial Day event to tie in with the Veterans of Foreign Wars as the charitable cause. Other future holiday events are also being considered. Meanwhile, the agency continues to publicize new store designs and openings.
PR team: Mason & Madison Public Relations (New Haven, CT) and Bruegger's (Burlington, VT)
Campaign: St. Patrick's Day Green Bagels
Time frame: March 2004