"We as a brand are always looking for ways to be a part of the neighborhoods where we do business," said Sara Engber, senior manager of national marketing for Applebee's. "The primary goal [of this campaign] is to activate our brand and help people connect through the Applebee's brand."
The contest allows customers to nominate their personal heroes from June 7 to July 5, and will then culminate in a week of online voting for Applebee's National Real Hero, July 15 to 23. This is the first time in recent years that Applebee's has gone out with a national PR push around something other than a new product or line of food dishes, Engber said.
The campaign is focused online, with a robust Web site and Facebook presence. Fleishman-Hillard, which came on in April to help with the project, is working with Applebee's to target influential bloggers and national media, but is planning to reach out on a local level once the 10 finalists are chosen.
"We have a wide network of franchisees who do things locally," Engber said, noting that the chain is providing tools and materials to help with that outreach. "This is intended to be a national program, but one that they can also build upon in their local communities."
Throughout the campaign, Engber expects local franchisees to host events, do media outreach, and incorporate bigger promotions if a local hero is one of the finalists.