Food PR: Gazebo uses fowl tactics to attract a slew of customers

Gazebo Room Salad Dressing and Marinade is a high-end specialty brand that is very popular in the Northeast and along much of the East Coast. While it has a loyal following as a lettuce topper, the company was interested in increasing its use as a marinade.

Gazebo Room Salad Dressing and Marinade is a high-end specialty brand that is very popular in the Northeast and along much of the East Coast. While it has a loyal following as a lettuce topper, the company was interested in increasing its use as a marinade.

It turned to Pavone, a marketing and PR shop, to help entice old consumers to expand their use of the product line and lure in new customers, especially during product trials.

"Whenever they did a testing, they had converts," says Pavone creative director Paul Murray. "They wanted us to help drive traffic to one of their trials."

Strategy

While Gazebo Room's main goal was to increase the number of people at its tasting, Pavone decided to take the program one step further.

"What they were looking for was really to goose up awareness and buzz around the brand," says Murray. But "they were open to non-conventional ways to raise that awareness."

The creative team decided on an unusual approach: creating a team of protesters against the brand as an "oppositional marketing" tactic, says Murray. But it wasn't just any activist group. Pavone created a cadre of 20 chickens who were angry with the company for supporting the marinating of their brethren.

"We were trying to think way outside of the box and touch people in an unusual way," explains Pavone PR director Jennifer Ross. "Thus, the Cluck Council was born."

"I loved the concept from the very beginning," says Nick Gekas, Gazebo Room's president, CEO, and cofounder. "I knew it was really up our alley."

Tactics

The Cluck Council was a group of 20 actors in chicken suits (with extensive training on acceptable tactics) that protested the brand around town. Pavone began the monthlong project with "vague sightings" of the chickens, says Murray. Staff drove the birds around town in convertibles and Jeeps and sent them out individually and in small groups to high traffic spots. They involved the media by calling radio stations to report the wandering fowl and to ask DJs if they knew what was going on.

"We would just play as if we were the public," says Ross of the calls. "It worked very well."

They also sent out press kits with Cluck Council bios, letterhead, and stray feathers, and created www.madchickens.com.

Pavone also held a press conference for the chickens, with staff mingling in the crowd posing as reporters and an actor taking on the character of the chickens' attorney and spokesman.

The culmination of the project was taking all 20 birds to the Pennsylvania Farm Show - the largest such show in the US - where Gazebo Room had a tasting and retail presence. That grand finale was a huge success, with the birds attracting a great deal of consumer attention as they passed out coupons and posed for pictures.

Results

The appearance at the farm show was so well received that Gazebo Room ran out of stock at their booth and had to temporarily close down. In addition, the website racked up 8,000 hits and coupons handed out by the chickens saw a 12% return rate.

The Cluck Council also drew media attention, at both the local and state levels, in print and on broadcast. Gazebo Room execs were asked to appear on a morning show, where the Cluck Council "crashed" the set.

Future

Pavone is now in the process of looking at other markets where the Cluck Council can be used. The company hopes to have the birds back on the street soon.

"This was really a blitz campaign, a test to see if it could be rolled out to a wider audience," says Murray.

Gekas says Gazebo Room will bring the Cluck Council along when doing in-store product demonstrations and tastings.

PR team: Pavone (Harrisburg, PA) and Gazebo Room (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Campaign: "Cluck Council vs. Gazebo Room"

Time frame: December 2003 to January 2004

Budget: $30,000

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