Arby's CMO Reveals New Ad Strategy

by , Jan 22, 2014, 5:53 PM
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Successful fast-food chains have distinctive brand identities. Few consumers mistakenly associate the Golden Arches with Burger King or order a Frosty at Chick-Fil-A. 

Arby's, by comparison, lacks identifiable characteristics. The chain's image is neither positive or negative, but rather nonexistent, company officials acknowledge.

"We were doing some consumer research in a restaurant and a guest said to me that he wished we served a chicken sandwich," says Rob Lynch, CMO, Arby's. "Well, we do have chicken sandwiches. We have kid's meals. We get that we are mostly known for roast beef. We aren't ashamed of that, but there is an opportunity to become known for a lot of great products." 

Now, Arby's -- which operates 3,400 locations -- is unveiling a new multifaceted strategy to reinforce that broader brand messaging. This week, the company announced Fallon as its new creative agency of record after a review. And this summer, the two companies will debut new creative that conveys innovation and inspiration.

"We are moving away from being a restaurant that is mostly known for a couple of signature products to create a relationship with the consumer," says Arby's Lynch. One priority is to shift advertising away from specific or short-term promotions to develop an ongoing consistent message, he adds. "[Advertising] is not just promoting products at price points, but more about creating a story that inspires them." 

The company is utilizing multiple media channels, although TV will remain a key part of the mix. "In an industry where transactions are based on a short purchase cycle, television will never go away," he says. That said, Arby's is leveraging new social-media opportunities, both internally and externally. Among the important skill sets that helped Fallon win the account was its expertise in social-media engagement. Arby's is currently looking to hire executives with experience in social media.

Some previous marketing tactics will remain in place. Arby's has no plans to disregard its current consumer base to chase after a new customer. "We will still appeal to our obvious demographic of 18-34 that have the highest frequency of visits. But as consumers continue to become more diverse, we will explore marketing messages that appeal beyond our core," says Lynch. 

Arby's, which is owned by private equity firm Roark Capital Group, declines to disclose advertising spend or even how it compares to previous years. But according to Kantar, the company spent $66.5 million on advertising between January 2013 and September 2013, down from the $93.1 million spent during the same time period in 2012.

Ultimately, Arby's executives realize that forming a strong relationship with consumers is a long-term effort. "[Successful campaigns] are not just mascots, taglines or jingles, but rather creating a brand voice that expands expectations," says Lynch.

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