Casual Dining in the Streaming Age

Mobile photographyCDR does not have to be ‘dead’ – but they do need to lean in to their cultural currency

OK, let’s be honest, as a marketer, you watched Super Bowl LI for the commercials, right? Don’t get me wrong, Lady Gaga was pretty impressive. I definitely was not expecting that mic drop and jump off the platform at the end of her performance.

But back to the advertising – Buffalo Wild Wings was the only restaurant to show up, and that makes sense as sports is one of their key brand pillars, as well as the genesis for the restaurant concept. And while there were many ads that touched on the current political landscape, there were a few ads that really caught my attention, and Netflix’s Stranger Things was certainly one of them.

First, this Super Bowl saw a distinct increase in TV series commercials vs. Film advertisements – that’s a testament to the shifting consumer behavior and eyeballs moving more and more toward streaming content vs. broadcast. And that’s where the opportunity for restaurant marketers is – get in on the Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube content trains. It’s way easier and cheaper to go this route — just look at Eggo’s success story! Sure, this was a profitable happenstance and not necessarily a strategic move on either party, but what if you could lean into your cultural currency for one of the many upcoming shows that will be released next year?

I loved what Azher Ahmed said about this phenomenon because I think that this is the core issue that the casual dining category is facing today. They are trying to be something that they aren’t. By ignoring, or even shunning, what cultural currency they have left, CDRs are alienating their core and simultaneously sounding inauthentic to the new Millennial and post-Millennial audiences – that’s a lose-lose strategy.

Stranger Things reminds us that nostalgia is a powerful emotion that, when harnessed correctly, can be used to bring in your diehard loyalists while also creating a halo effect to start to pull in the Snapchatters of the world.

So, grab onto your restaurant’s cultural currency – don’t be afraid to own your restaurant’s heritage and use that as a basis to reinvigorate your core guests. Try to pitch your restaurant as the go-to spot for the main characters of an Amazon or Hulu show – even if there is some self-deprecation involved. Just because the characters of the show may not fit your target guest profile doesn’t necessarily mean that the viewers of the show won’t.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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