For three years, Red Lobster has been undergoing massive changes to reinvigorate the brand’s image by demonstrating its passion for and expertise in seafood. The changes, which included new menu items, upgraded bar areas and extensive employee retraining, were designed to ultimately attract “lapsed” Red Lobster visitors, as well as a whole new middle-aged, higher income audience (MAHI). To help personify Red Lobster’s new image, Red Lobster created CLAWDE, a 40-foot long, anatomically correct lobster bolted to the flatbed of a Ford pick-up truck. Porter Novelli worked with Red Lobster to create and execute a summer-long mobile marketing tour where CLAWDE toured the country visiting high-traffic events in key Red Lobster markets. Porter Novelli’s charge was to bring the new Red Lobster experience directly to these two audiences via consumer events and the media.
Red Lobster’s greatest challenge is shedding its image as the restaurant consumers’ grandparents go to for fried seafood, and becoming the restaurant both young and old frequent for fresh seafood, excellent service and good times. The ultimate goal for all marketing efforts has been and still is to encourage consumers to “REDiscover Red Lobster” by trying the food and experiencing the hospitality first-hand.
From a program execution standpoint, CLAWDE, Red Lobster’s mobile marketing vehicle, was just one of many mobile marketing tours being implemented across the country last summer, making the competition for breaking through the clutter with both the media and consumers fierce. Additionally, while CLAWDE was extremely popular with consumers, he was not so popular with media sight unseen as the proposition was perceived as very commercial. It was critical to develop other less commercial yet compelling story angles to encourage media coverage while still driving home key messages about Red Lobster’s new image.
Focus groups and other primary research conducted by Red Lobster and outside partners indicated that seafood is still Americans’ favorite in casual dining. Additional secondary trend information forecasted that the causal dining category would outpace the quick-serve category due to the aging baby boomer population’s desire for a sit-down experience in a lively and entertaining atmosphere.
Give qualified consumers a “taste” of the new Red Lobster – a taste of both of its food and its brand personality – and reinforce Red Lobster’s passion for great seafood.
Support and extend marketing efforts in Tampa, a key market for Red Lobster.
Drive higher income audience to Red Lobster; increase frequency of loyal consumers.
Reach target audiences through a variety of touch points including direct-to-consumer events/sampling, media coverage and radio promotions.
Ensure that efforts would support and extend Red Lobster’s brand advertising campaign, “Try the New Red.”
Utilize CLAWDE, a 40-foot, 3,000-pound, anatomically correct lobster on wheels, as a focal point for the new brand image; deploy CLAWDE to cities and events with high concentrations of target audiences.
Develop a two-tiered strategy whereby sampling and media programs would complement each other, but have distinct objectives, programming elements and measures.
To give qualified consumers a “taste” of the new Red lobster and reinforce its position as the seafood expert, Red Lobster and Porter Novelli:
Researched and developed a schedule of appearances in key markets for CLAWDE that included participation at major food and city festivals. Several key screeners -- such as importance of market to Red Lobster’s growth, number of attendees, demographics of attendees, etc. -- were put into place to qualify audiences at particular events and ensure that Red Lobster and CLAWDE had premium positioning.
To give consumers a taste of the new Red Lobster at the events, Red Lobster sampled selections from its healthy new menu.
To help consumers experience its new brand personality, Red Lobster set up a tent next to the sampling booth where visitors could literally taste and touch Red Lobster by participating in trivia games, winning food and gift certificates. Everywhere CLAWDE went, Red Lobster distributed branded premium and coupons.
Two days before CLAWDE’s arrival in each market, Porter Novelli pitched the local media to secure in-studio interviews and/or invited the media to catch up with CALWDE at one of the many locations he visited in each market. The media coverage ranged from “how to eye and buy seafood” to candid shots of CLAWDE to audience-appropriate radio promotions to generate additional awareness.
To support and extend marketing and operations efforts in Tampa, Red Lobster and Porter Novelli:
Collaborated to develop a two-tiered media strategy to tell the business media, in addition to the consumer press, about the revitalization efforts taking place at Red Lobster restaurants. A first wave of business media coverage generated local awareness of Red Lobster’s commitment to Tampa, while consumer coverage around CLAWDE and his participation in a local activities, including a local food festival, drove traffic to Red Lobster restaurants.
To drive more new and higher-income visitors to Red Lobster and increase the frequency of loyal consumers, Red Lobster and Porter Novelli:
Evaluated each local market event and media opportunity with an eye toward maximizing exposure to these two audiences. For instance, local market activities had to be appealing to the target audiences. Popular visits made by CLAWDE included high-traffic business parks and popular family spots such as parks and zoos.
Objective #1: Give qualified consumers a “taste” of the new Red Lobster – a taste of both of its food and its brand personality – and reinforce Red Lobster’s passion for great seafood.
Results: Exposure direct to consumers via sampling and a Red Lobster interactive atmosphere at six major festivals in key Red Lobster markets with an estimated combined audience of 4.5 million consumers.
National media exposure through appearances on “Fox and Friends” and MTV’s “Total Request Live.”
9.8 million media impressions generated via 27 Red Lobster branded television segments; an average of two top-rated radio station promotions per market; and several print placements.
93 percent of all coverage included two or more Red Lobster key messages.
Objective #2: Support and extend marketing and operations efforts in Tampa, the first completed “revitalization” market.
Results: Average weekly guest counts in Tampa exceeded initial company projections by 40 percent and weekly sales per restaurant increased on top of an already strong base.
Objective #3: Drive higher income audience to Red Lobster; increase frequency of loyal consumers.
Results: More than 20 visits to high-MAHI audience and high consumer traffic destinations in local markets.
In summary, CLAWDE and the “REDiscover Red Lobster Road Show” exceeded all expectations. Anecdotal feedback from local restaurant managers was overwhelmingly positive. Plans are currently underway to expand Red Lobster’s revitalization efforts using CLAWDE as a main attraction.