Cheez-It Keeps Looking For Buzz With Cheez-In Diner

Cheez-It, a brand already heavily invested in its over-the-top image, wants to share a meal with some of its superfans. So Kellenova is opening the Cheez-In Diner, a week-long activation serving everything from Cheez-It blended milkshakes to Mac-and-Cheez-Its to chicken tenders blended in crushed Cheez-It breading. Cara Tragseiler, senior brand director, explains what’s behind the marketing activation.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CPG Insider: Let’s start with the brand’s personality. What does Cheez-It stand for?

Cara Tragseiler: It is a brand all about celebrating cheesy deliciousness. We love celebrating the “Want it. Need it. Cheez-It” spirit of our superfans and the absurd lengths they’ll go to satisfy their love for our delicious crackers.

CPG Insider: And the target audience?

Tragseiler: We appeal to such a broad audience. Lots of families enjoy Cheez-Its. Kids have grown up eating them. We have superfans throughout the country and different population groups. You can see it in the people already lining up at the diner -- they are from all walks of life.

CPG Insider: Last year, you did something similar – a gas station Cheez-It pop-up in Joshua Tree, California. What’s different about this year’s version?

Tragseiler: Yes, that was our first roadside attraction. It was an absurd destination in the middle of the desert. Fans showed us what we already knew was true – that, to them, Cheez-Its are worth the road trip. We felt like we had to go the extra mile this year and picked a place in Woodstock, New York, in the Catskills. Last year beat our expectations, and this location is easier. We wanted to capitalize on people traveling for Memorial Day.

CPG Insider: How did you come up with the menu items? Did you outsource them to a restaurant team?

Tragseiler: No, absolutely not! Our culinary team came up with each creative delicacy. Fan creations inspired some, but we mostly leveraged our team's culinary expertise.

CPG Insider: Only a few people will likely hear about or make it to this restaurant. What is the real goal? How are you hoping they will share the experience with others?

Tragseiler: The intent is to fuel cultural conversation. We are hopeful that people are sharing the experience with friends and family. And for those who can’t make it, we’re posting some recipes. At the diner, merch includes vintage postcards with recipes on it.

CPG Insider: What’s your favorite?

Tragseiler: I haven’t had a chance to try the items yet, but I've heard great things about that milkshake. It’s been the one people have found the most surprising and delicious.

CPG Insider: Yep, that whole salty-sweet thing. The Cheez-It brand is having a moment. In Kellenova’s earnings call last week, the company announced that it is “rapidly narrowing” the decline in crackers, which they credit to improvements at Cheez-It. What’s uppermost about growing the brand and gaining market share?

Tragseiler: Ultimately, we have a strong foundation: this extreme love for our delicious snack. We want to continue to fuel that fandom and keep Cheez-It top of mind. But we are also ensuring that we're driving everything from a retail execution. Wherever our fan is shopping, we want to be front and center.

CPG Insider: What’s changed in the last year to power those improvements?

Tragseiler: Celebrating the irresistibility of Cheez-It. But how people shop continues to evolve, and we need to grow, too, in terms of where and how we find them.

CPG Insider: Cheez-It is also a big TV advertiser. How do stunts like this diner fit in the broader marketing mix?

Tragseiler: We launched “Want it. Need it.” last year and continue to execute it across the marketing funnel. The brand is about showing up wherever fans want to enjoy their favorite snacks" road trips, sporting events, at home with their family, or at a gathering. So we want to meet them in all those places.

CPG Insider: How do you keep up? Because this kind of brand culture moves so fast.

Tragseiler: Activations like this help because they’re so energizing for me and my team. It makes it easier to stay agile, make sure we’re monitoring social conversation and trends all of the time, and always look for the right points where the brand can authentically play.

CPG Insider: How do you do that? Are you always on TikTok? Lurking in supermarkets? Where do you get your ideas?

Tragseiler: All the above. This kind of marketing is about keeping your eyes open all the time. I’m a marketer, but I am also a consumer.

CPG Insider: Are there brands you pay especially close attention to?

Tragseiler:I keep a close eye on the QSR industry. Those brands move very quickly in terms of limited-time menu items. They know how to start conversations. And I keep a close watch on what our competitors are doing, especially the ones in the broader salty snack set.

Next story loading loading..