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Food Trends for 2012 - White Castle Takes Digital and Social Seriously

Embracing Communities via Digital Marketing - Beyond the Slider


White Castle,Deckers Triple Decker Grilled Sandwiches

White Castle, the originator of the slider is looking for growth with new format Deckers Triple Decker Grilled Sandwiches.

White Castle,Deckers Triple Decker Grilled Sandwiches

Food Industry Summit 2012

I attended the Food Industry Summit at Saint Josephs University… Eat With Us . . . . Leveraging Digital Opportunities for Profitable Meals . The well known Saint Joseph's University Food Marketing Program hosted the sixth annual Food Industry Summit focusing on how digital marketing is changing the food and beverage sector. Saint Joseph's University Food Marketing Program is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year so the emphasis on digital was a great juxtaposition to when they first started.

Kim Bartley, VP of Marketing & Menu Development for White Castle illustrated innovations in both new concept development and building communities with digital marketing strategies. White Castle is the QSR chain best known for innovating the slider.

Upscale Fast Food Trends - Beyond Burgers at White Castle

Upscale QSR hamburger operators, 5 Guys and SmashBurger are growing because people just want great tasting burgers and not Mc… whatever!

White Castle was the creator of the slider and is growing without the burger. Deckers (Triple Decker Grilled Sandwiches), Laughing Noodle, a menu focused on anything "noodle", (Teriyaki, Sweet and Sour, Italian Tomato, Pesto Chicken, even Taco Mac & Cheese) and Blazes BBQ . Upscale QSR is attracting other retailers… Target partnered with the Pret A Manger sandwich shop chain in the new Chicago CityTarget.

Brand Positioning with Social Word of Mouth

We know the power of word of mouth… just think of the times your social circles influenced a buying decision and got you from undecided to decided? Social word of mouth is far more powerful and some researchers suggest that for any given topic that an individual posts, they have the potential to reach 1 million people in 24 hours!

White Castle Craver Fans are strong brand evangelists and White Castle has a goal of achieving 9 million craver fans which represents about 10% of their customer base. Wait… what's a Craver? Well, Cravers are not just people, it is aspiration and as White Castle states "It's going beyond, staying up and driving far. It's road-tripping two hours just to reach the nearest sack of Sliders. And it's coaching friends on what to order…". They want their Cravers to evangelize the brand and feel this community will convince you that "if you've never had The Original Slider®, the Craver could be lying in-wait - inside of you."

Kim suggested that she views White Castle customers as Communities not Targets. Hey a target could have the implication of being dangerous and it is used many times colloquially as a negative! Targets are a form of "push marketing"… identify the targets and 'push' your message to achieve trial and/or repeat purchase. Social Word of Mouth is a form of Content Marketing, also referred to as inbound marketing .

Kim used a great example of brand positioning focusing on community vs. target strategy. There is a group called the March 8 Club, people who celebrate annually their high school reunion. This group goes to a White Castle every year on March 8 for this celebration. Thinking communities allows the brand to connect one group to another which exponentially increases the "groups" of communities engaged with the brand.

Marketing is becoming about sharing and not watching or listening. White Castle feels that various forms of social media to gather customer insights are far more effective than survey's. I teach consumer behavior and have my students use social media in numerous class exercises to illustrate how social media a way to measure consumer sentiment, or the "temperature" so to speak. According to Kim, "the brand is about engagement and not just eating. It's the taste, the experience and fun, otherwise your brand is in the "discount world". It is about linking and not segmenting.

Examples Social Media at White Castle

They created the Craver Community and use technology for community engagement however this means the brand must be transparent with their cravers. Since cravers span demographic groups, they use email marketing for the above 40 customer segments vs. Facebook and Twitter for promotions for those under 40 who naturally respond to social media.

The Valentines Day Facebook App may seem an unlikely way to get couples to celebrate this all important event at a White Castle.. but it does. The combination of social word of mouth along with their units setting tables with white table cloths and a reservation only seating cause them to sell out each year. They have even considered expanding to people who want to celebrate their weddings at the Castle.

Their National Finger Football campaign on Facebook , the Slider Bowl was live streaming the final tournament and even attracted celebrity chef Paula Dean to the White Castle for a visit.

Technology accentuates what is special about their brand along with gathering customer insights.

Our 4 Screens and the Companion Experience

We have a potential of 4 screens: our television, computer, tablet and smart phone and we use each in a different way. There is something called the Companion Experience, an example might be communicating with our friends via smartphone or iPad about a television show we are watching. Some commercials and shows allows us to scan a QR code shown on screen. The companion experience is so new that brand are scrambling to understand how this adds to their consumer engagement.

White Castle develops brand evangelists by having dialogues using a Twitter, and most recently a blogging contest with local bloggers when they launched breakfast in St Louis. Mommy bloggers are another social media word of mouth channel being embraced by food & beverage brands today.

They launched online ordering focused on Crave Cases and large orders for offices and will be launching an online order app shortly. This is a practical application to handle very large orders and not hold up the drive in window and customers with smaller orders.

Other Articles - Social Media and Marketing

Food Trends for 2012 -Digital Marketing and New Product Launch

SXSW - A New Venue for Social Media New Product Launch

New Product Launch - Take a Position

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  5. Food Trends for 2012 White Castle presents at Food Industry Summit, they are moving to Upscale QSR no-burger concepts such as Laughing Noodle and Deckers, Social Word of Mouth, Communities vs Targets, Food is the new Social Network.

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