Social media

Marketing genius behind popular Popeye and Burger King social media stunts reveals secrets to going viral

Alison Brod
  • Public relations expert Alison Brod is known for her viral stunts for fast food and packaged goods like Popeyes and Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.
  • His campaigns used large visuals and short, pleasant messages.
  • She explained how she does campaigns that have taken off on social networks.

With roots in beauty PR, Alison Brod may seem like an unlikely fast food champion. But her 30-year-old New York-based company, Alison Brod Marketing + Communications, has become known for its viral campaigns for fast food and packaged goods.

Beauty – where Brod still has a large following – has been a great training ground for viral marketing, she said. “People don’t realize how innovative beauty is. It’s based on science. It’s always about influencers. It has a huge number of launches, just like fast food.

After promoting ‘Chicken Wars’ for Popeye’s in 2020, Brod launched a ‘Piece Deal’ this year, sending out a million chicken nuggets to competing brands and generating a billion impressions. When research indicated that customers love iced coffee in the winter, the agency created a bread bowl-shaped “glove” for Panera Bread designed to hold a cold drink. The glove has moved from social media to the show “Today”, generating 2.3 billion impressions and spurring increased sales of the brand’s coffee subscriptions.

Such campaigns are successful because they are built on old-school marketing, Brod said. “It’s easy to find a shocking waterfall. It’s much harder to get people to buy, ”she said.

To shape creative campaigns, Brod and his team use analytics, consumer research, traditional media, influencer relationships, and branding. “I’m looking to hire people on social media, not social media, who are sometimes the least engaged,” she said.

Brod shared these ideas behind some of his company’s campaigns:

Make the news

The “bread bowl glove” from Panera Bread.

Unlike some agencies, Brod makes traditional media channels a strategic part of viral campaigns. “In the past, influencers would notice what the media covered. Now it’s reversed. Once something explodes on social media, mainstream media picks up on it. “We call it ‘hijacking’.

As a result, ABMC’s social media campaigns gain valuable coverage in still-prominent national media such as People, USA Today, and Today. And in what could be the ultimate tribute to pop culture, six ABMC campaigns this year have been praised by SNL and late-night hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel. Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon for example touted Panera’s bread glove.

Stay on message

When Kraft Macaroni & Cheese wanted to promote “updated natural flavors and colors,” ABMC worked with cult ice cream maker Van Leeuwen to create a macaroni and cheese flavored ice cream that became a viral sensation and media success. Finding the right partner and a product that people wanted was essential. More importantly, the social and media frenzy has served Kraft’s messaging goals.

“In addition to ‘natural’, we wanted to remind people of Kraft Mac & Cheese during the summer months. It was one of our biggest campaigns in terms of impressions, and we hit both messaging goals, which wasn’t easy, ”she says.

Find the “snacking moment”

Popeyes “We Come in Piece” campaign

After Popeye’s ad agency came up with this year’s ‘We Come in Piece’ slogan, the brand turned to Brod to promote it. She bought a million chicken nuggets from competitors using gift cards given to charities to signal the end of the Chicken War. “We always aim for a huge, crazy, fun visual and then figure out how to reduce it into a snack idea that comes in a few words,” she said.

The campaign hit the mark with fans of the Popeye brand, who amplified it even further. “Popeye’s is a Southern brand, with Southern New Orleans hospitality in its DNA. We didn’t want our rivals to feel bad about crushing them. This campaign was the Southern “Bless Your Heart” moment, and we knew fans would get it.

Sometimes smaller is better

Success doesn’t always mean a billion impressions, Brod said. To boost Jet-Puffed Marshmallows on National Sandwich Day, ABMC has partnered with the bustling sandwich shop Alidoro. The result: a marshmallow and prosciutto-on-graham-cracker-bread sandwich that rocketed Jet-Puffed in epicurean media and garnered social attention from younger food influencers. The positive coverage of less typical outlets delighted the customer, Brod said.

“It was less about impressions and more about quality, and that generated a lot of pride for the brand,” she said.