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4 Franchise Marketing Campaigns that went VIRAL

1. IHOP: IHOb 

One of the greatest tricks in recent years, the International House of Pancakes had everyone up in arms over its new commitment to… burgers?

It never wound up actually happening (all a PR stunt) but it did generate so much buzz that social media went a little insane.

So what happened? IHOP flipped the “P” in IHOP into a “b” to create IHOb. The campaign was unveiled in a phased rollout targeting owned, earned, and paid media channels. For one week, a nation of guests, influencers, celebrity fans, and media guessed, “What’s the b in IHOb?”

PR drove the narrative with executive interviews and culinary previews for target media and influencers, including a national TV interview, strategically placed print, and social media initiatives. A second wave of media relations included an exclusive burger tasting event preview for food-focused media and influencers with the IHOP Culinary team in NYC, embargoing the news until launch. In Hollywood, a grand “re-obening” event at the first fully “burgerfied” IHOb restaurant featured a “VIb” launch event.

With more than 100 coordinated tastings and media drops, PR sustained the momentum well beyond the launch to make IHOb an ongoing consideration.

The campaign created more than 28,000 media stories, $113+ million in earned-media value (an 11x ROI), and more than 42.5 billion earned impressions. Every major news, entertainment, lifestyle outlet, and TV personality covered the campaign. IHOb generated 1.2 million tweets in the first 10 days, including unpaid celebrity engagement, and was simultaneously the #1, #2 and #4 Trending Topic on Twitter.

The campaign also created a 2x increase in word-of-mouth, and increased brand awareness from 25% to 45% (as tracked by YouGov’s BrandIndex). Guest perception of IHOP “having great burgers” increased from 41% to 51%, catapulting the brand from last place to second place among competitors.

On reveal, IHOP lunch and dinner sales increased 15% and 28%, respectively. Burger sales quadrupled YOY during the first month after the campaign launch, selling 500,000 burgers per week, and sustained 2x lunch and dinner sales through year-end.

2. Quicktrip “Snackle” campaign 

QT’s newest term has even been backed by celebrity Chuck Norris in a series of advertisements explaining and defining the term snackle. Chuck’s favorite QT snackle is a vanilla cone.

“We’ve had a ton of fun playing with this new term ‘snackle’ over the past several months and it has really caught on nicely being used much more often by our customers,” said QuikTrip Marketing & Communications Manager Mendi Parker. We have so many snackles to offer in a QT store that are part snack and part meal, satisfying hunger and thirst for our customers.” 

QT’s newest word has been so widely used by customers that the company hopes it will be considered by Meriam-Webster for the dictionary’s new word submissions this year. QT also has plans to submit the term snackle to Oxford English Dictionary for consideration in its new word list for this year. 

Ranging in type and flavor, QT snackles can be anything from a Big Q drink or vanilla cone, to a grilled cheese sandwich, QT Kitchens fresh pretzel or slice of pizza. Whatever the craving, a QT snackle is sure to satisfy.

3. European Wax Center‘s #axthepinktax

European Wax Center’s (EWC) #axthepinktax campaign focused on raising mass awareness about how women are charged more than men for comparable products and services (the “pink tax”); and on inspiring women to make more empowered purchasing decisions and advocate for equal prices for equal products.

Where are they coming from? A study in NYC found that women lose $1,351 every year to the pink tax; on average, pay extra 42% of the time; that products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys; and that women lose an estimated $40,000 to the pink tax by age 30.

A fully integrated, 360-degree program engaged women through messaging and imagery across paid media and EWC-owned channels that included a media partnership with Refinery29 to host a livestreamed “Ax the Pink Tax” panel; and a partnership with to create co-branded online video content.

In April 2018, EWC’s total network adjusted sales rose 17%; ticket count rose 6%; new guest count rose 5%; and package sales rose 51%. In May, the brand had its highest adjusted sales growth ever (33%), which continued through 2018.

EWC delivered almost 650,000 impressions through paid media and PR efforts in April; drove three times more Google search activity for the words “pink tax”; and saw $1,351 become a rallying cry. Online engagement was noteworthy not only for amount, but also for intensity and length of engagement. The campaign won a Clio Award for Mass Integrated Campaign in 2018, and in 2019 received a Shorty Award.

4. Popeye’s: Chicken Sandwich Insanity

Popeyes’ chicken sandwich went viral this fall thanks to a combination of luck and taste, according to the boss of the fried-chicken chain’s parent company.

“A really fortuitous moment of social media interaction” between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A fueled the hype, Restaurant Brands CEO José Cil said this week. “And then others joined in and it became the #chickenwars.” Popeyes expected to sell about 60 sandwiches a day at each of its locations, but the actual figure was closer to 1,000, one analyst told CNBC. The chain sold out in two weeks, prompting one enterprising customer to list a sandwich on eBay for $7,000. After the chain restocked in November of 2019 some restaurants ran out again.


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