A Fresh Fish Story: Why Digital is Above The Line

Welcome to RedLobster.com

Welcome to RedLobster.com

Sssssssssssshhhhpopsssssssssssss. It’s the sound of flames licking butter and juices dripping from your lobster tail. You can almost feel the warmth of the wood fired grill and smell the wood-fired lobster tail looking through your monitor into Red Lobster. Can digital be as emotional and drive desire and reappraisal better than a TV spot? See for yourself. In this post I’ll point out some of the guided discoveries Red Lobster is earning through the digital channel.

For nearly 5 years Real Branding has had the privilege of leading Red Lobster’s digital marketing efforts as their digital Agency Of Record. Over this time we’ve delivered a full range of award-winning solutions from a strategic Digital Roadmap to website and microsites to ad campaigns, media and distribution strategies and eCRM. As you can tell, it’s a relationship we’re proud of built on trust and openness. In short, it’s what every agency wants in a relationship and we believe we’ve been what a client wants in a agency partner.

As you can imagine, over the last 5-years the brand has transitioned its positioning to address evolving consumer needs while staying consistent with their core values and heritage for bringing fresh seafood to America. The repositioning has been a thoughtful, planned series of expressions in all areas of consumer touchpoints from restaurant design and logistics to menu innovations to advertising communications and more. Addressing each proof- and experience-point allows us to say, “Come see what’s fresh today” creatively and with great confidence.

As the world’s largest supplier of seafood, Red Lobster brings the highest quality and freshest fish to their customers. You might be asking yourself, are we talking about Red Lobster? There’s a lack of awareness, comprehension and credit they deserve for a great product that we think digital can address better than most media. When you have an emotional and cognitive disconnect, you need a different kind of reappraisal than tonnage through reach and frequency can drive alone. Repeating a dense or disconnected message only furthers the chasm in comprehension. You need the consumer to solve the equation themselves–in this case, Red Lobster+Healthy+Fresh+Quality+Leadership, etc.

Lighthouse Menu Selector

Lighthouse Menu Selector

It’s why the homepage sizzles with reverence to their offering. It’s why culinary expertise is showcased in an industry-best interactive kitchen environment that will grow over time. It’s why lighter faire and nutritional information is now presented in an interactive meal planner to show exactly how healthy and fulfilling the menu is.

When a consumer makes their own connection and conclusions based on an interaction around our brand truths, they move to a more powerful place than an introductory or reminder ad. Engagement is the popular word thrown around to describe this phenomenon. We call it putting the “me in media.” We’re telling the story through discovery rather than shouting like a market stall barker. This is Real Branding. It’s driving serious consideration, which is what marketers have traditionally called “Above The Line” advertising and marketing. Below The Line refers to promotional and more tactical, lower-funnel activity.

As a result of this approach, promotions are more than simply an opportunity to remind customers to return, they are new opportunities to re-engage lapsed guests and bring new seafood lovers into the fold. Below The Line is the new Above The Line. And through adding share/embed features, we’re also letting people promote these discoveries to their friends and socialgraphs. In essence, our consumers are telling our story for us through their recommendations.

Facebook comment thread

Facebook comment thread

As an example, I tweeted about launching the new nutritional menus on RedLobster.com.  That tweet went out to my 950+ immediate twitter followers; a potential 3+ million second-order followers of theirs according to Twinfluence.com; and posted to my socialgraph in Facebook and Friendfeed where another, mostly different 900+ friends can see this info. Four people responded in Facebook, several on twitter and some by email. Each interaction was seen by their social graphs, which gave this one post an effective reach of over 5000 people. And that was just one post by one seafood lover. As you can see, the responses were a strong testimony to reconsideration in action. Because a trusted friend made the recommendation they were willing to reappraise their position and Red Lobster will earn at least another chance to delight them and maybe even new loyal customers.

Thanks to the share/embed features, our “non-working” dollars—that which has traditionally been production and agency fees—are acting like working dollars as a million+ people a month have the opportunity to share.

Let me summarize the shifts at work for the marketing industry in these small but dramatic changes in approach:

  1. Through elevating each consumer touchpoint to interactions—putting the “me in media”—we drive consideration and reappraisal through discovery rather than trickery or “shouting” with tonnage
  2. Turning promotions into story telling and driving reconsideration makes Below The Line the new Above The Line
  3. Allowing and even rewarding customers to share/embed content turns production into “working dollars” and gets an added benefit of social-referrals to lower consideration barriers

In the introductory paragraph I set up an unfair foil asking if digital can outperform TV. It can deliver better than TV in many areas, and some, as in efficient scale, it still has a way to go. Each has a different role in “Above The Line” communications. Approaching each initiative with the intent to drive consideration and social interaction will get your non-working dollars working a little harder for you. Here’s a little appetizer to go with that huge craving you may have for seafood.

Guess where I want to have dinner tonight.

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3 responses to “A Fresh Fish Story: Why Digital is Above The Line

  1. Love this post Mark. Love it! “below the line is the new above the line” is excellent. I’m totally stealing it and using it at Red Bull. How much do I owe you? 😉

  2. Pingback: Notes on Mark Silva’s “A Fresh Fish Story” « Temple + Circus

  3. Best explanation of storytelling I’ve read yet. I finally get it. Thank you.

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