Chili’s Gets It (I Think)

April 17, 2009

3427852837_bd0e99c337Chili’s did some market research and found out that most of the restaurant chains in their category have rather bland food compared to their own.  So naturally, they decided to tell the world this very discovery in a new ad campaign.

But this time, they did something that really speaks to the times we are living in.  They decided to go after the social media space, and go after it in a big way.

In Wednesday’s post, I discussed how more companies trying to enter the social media playing field will imminently cause the space to be overcrowded and boring.  But Chili’s, in my opinion, is going about it in all the right ways.

The campaign is based around a fictional restaurant chain called “PJ Blands“, which already sounds like a play on Friday’s.  And of course they have the traditional television commercials, which feature PJ Bland himself discussing the amazing new “cardboard-style” menu items at his restaurant.  This then leads to the decision of the featured consumers to choose taste, and eat at Chili’s.

Then, to back up the commercials, they created a website for the fictional restaurant.  And the website it dynamic, featuring many of the same things you would find on a REAL restaurant’s site.  It offers things like career applications, menu items, history of the company, and PJ himself discussing how amazing the new restaurant is.

After that, you can find a Twitter account for PJ, a Flickr account, all their commercials on YouTube, and much, much more.  It’s obvious that Chili’s recognized the need to go social, and put the time and money into it to get it right.  This is a story that has the ability to spread.  It builds the right kind of message, fun and casual, that will spread links.  All of this goes to build brand awareness of the Chili’s restaurant chain and makes them a player in the social media landscape.

For other companies that are looking to test the waters in our Web 2.0 world, exploring how Chili’s went about launching the PJ Blands campaign is a good start.  I commend the advertising people who came up with this idea, and the higher ups at Chili’s who saw the value in committing resources to this type of project.

But that’s just one man’s opinion.  Check out the campaign for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments area below, or by sending me a quick email.  It’s the opinion of all of us that really matters.

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