The Old Model

Most brands choose to treat videos on social media like a broadcast, sending one way commercial messages to people without making it easy to respond and engage with the brand. Part of the reason for that is “old school” thinking from the days when high quality videos required expensive film and nobody had fast internet to view online videos. Most companies simply re-purposed their TV ads and slapped them on YouTube in case anyone cared to view them.

That should have changed a long time ago.

Now social media has changed society and most people in countries like the United States and Canada have access to broadband internet speeds and watch online videos just about anywhere: phone, tablet, computer, smart TV, or emerging devices like Google Glass. The cost of digital video production has dropped significantly and it’s cost effective to make versions of videos that are made for online viewers. But few brands are. Even fewer are directly engaging with customers through video, even though it’s the most personal method of communicating with someone remotely.

The New Model

In times of change, people always want a leader to follow. In this case, Applebee’s (Jill McFarland is awesome) and their brilliant digital agency BTC Revolutions have stepped up to the plate.

The new digital campaign for Applebee’s is brilliant.

Through friendly and personal interactions, they’ve quickly built a substantial fandom on Twitter (250,000 followers) and Facebook (5,000,000 likes).  According to the NRN Social 200, they are the #1 Casual Dining restaurant brand on social media and #5 overall (right behind Starbucks and McDonald’s).  Now they are taking it to a new level with their #SpiritedChef video campaign on YouTube.  They hired the Michael Jordan of flair bartending (19 time world champion Christian Delpech) for their Spirited Cuisine TV commercials and are asking people to suggest tricks or plot ideas for him to to help make the “best video ever by fans” as part of a digital series that is related to their TV ads.

The collaborative process of creating this video led to a ton of discussions and some people are even getting special video responses. This is building an increase in loyalty and brand ambassadorship.



Letting the Fear Go

Of course there are always fears about negative comments and backlash when you choose to engage the internet.  It’s been interesting to watch the Applebee’s team and BTC Revolutions navigate through issues.  Of course there were trolls.  There always are.  (Just look at what happened to a helpless Chilli’s with this tweet. They ended up yanking it down immediately.)  However, when you’ve earned a strong fanbase, you can be confident in who you are as a brand and not worry so much about haters.

Applebee’s demonstrated that with the Brony shoutout and putting My Little Ponies in one of the response videos (and then later in the full final version).  The internet will never be the same.

Look at this article on one of the My Little Pony fan sites.  Then the major blog for the My Little Pony community posted an article.

Of course this isn’t normal behavior for a company.  But then again, normal companies are dying at a rapid pace and being replaced by companies that know how to build communities that inspire more than just sales.

LOOK AT THIS!  A local club of Bronies (men who like My Little Ponies) is hosting an event at Applebee’s to show appreciation for the acknowledgement.

Feel free to pinch yourself at this point.

We’ve never seen anything like this, but it’s been an honor to be the film production partner for this project. Jon Brewer from BTC Revolutions is a genius.  It’s fun to watch him and his team work.

The world is changing and they are right there leading it…riding on a pony just like Yankee Doodle.


As always, thanks for your attention and we’d love to have you share your thoughts below.

– Aaron @Biebert and the Attention Era Media crew

PS. If you love video, social media, marketing, or business leadership, please subscribe to our blog for free.

Last updated by .