Food’s Social Media Courtship Is A PR Treat

Though it’s now commonplace to digitally distribute information, most wedding announcements still are mailed to family and friends on traditional, custom-printed invitations. However, when Dairy Queen® launched its newest treat, freshly-baked waffle bowls and cones, the announcement of the impending Las Vegas nuptials of product “spokes characters” Waffles and Soft Serve reached millions through a social media campaign that included MySpace and Facebook pages, the couple’s own mini Web site, a video posted on YouTube and traditional PR.

Successful online buzz can begin in the real world, as evidenced by the infamous phase, “Don’t tase me bro,” uttered in desperation by a publicity-seeking University of Florida student during a political media opportunity that now has upwards of two million hits on YouTube, and has become a catch phrase all over the Web.

It’s not that simple for a food product launch. With a myriad of restaurant companies vying for exposure of new menu items, a social campaign needs to have that quirky, creative edge to catch on virally. Enter “real world” quirky, tongue-in-cheek Dairy Queen spokes characters, “Waffles,” a male personification of a DQ waffle bowl, and “Soft Serve,” the female embodiment of Dairy Queen’s signature cone with the curl on top.

Bringing the campaign to life
Waffles and Soft Serve first came to life in the “Made for Each Other” series of TV spots, created by Grey Worldwide, New York, that over a three-month course followed the couple through their courtship.

What follows a courtship? A wedding. Fade to Las Vegas where Waffles and Soft Serve added traditional bridal touches to their costumes for a May 31, Elvis-officiated wedding – a kick-off to the June wedding season. The couple’s wedding invitation was posted on Facebook. A “Made for Each Other” MySpace page was created to introduce the characters and chronicle their courtship and wedding. A videographer recorded the Las Vegas nuptials, which were posted on YouTube.

The impact of social media
With the majority of the millennial generation communicating as well as receiving news via digital channels, successful PR campaigns have crossed over to include this network as a major part of publicity strategy. With traditional newspaper food pages shrinking, the industry has grabbed onto social media as the new media savior. Yet, although anyone can initiate a viral campaign, it does not mean it will spread. A successful campaign must be newsworthy and clever enough to catch on with the target market. There has to be a strong pop-culture appeal that draws in the viewer. It has to be compelling and sticky enough to elicit a wow reaction in order for it to be passed on virally.

There’s no silver bullet in PR
While Dairy Queen added a strong digital element to the introduction of waffle bowls and cones, traditional print and television opportunities were not discounted. Local Las Vegas TV stations were contacted and covered Waffles and Soft Serve during their Las Vegas stay.

Waffles and Soft Serve also were part of a New York Times feature article, citing the resurgent use of characters in advertising. Other major newspapers which covered the product introduction included the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Houston Chronicle and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

In addition to the social network vehicles, more than 120 print, internet and TV placements with a combined circulation and viewership of 7.5 million introduced Dairy Queen’s new waffle bowls and cones to the public.

For the Waffles and Soft Serve wedding, digital social networking was the icing on the cake.

Originally published in O’Dwyer’s PR report

By Christine Feeley
Senior Account Manager at Pierson Grant Public Relations