Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world.
Marketing Dive's editors had a few chuckles this week as they reviewed The Spotted Cheetah pop-up restaurant from Cheetos, Ikea's take on autonomous sensory meridian response and Chiquita's claims to the Banana Sun.
Spotted Cheetah restaurant is Cheetos' latest cheesy pitch to millennials
The rundown: Cheetos is betting that millennials' love of Instagram-worthy food experiences will beat out their craving for organic ingredients and book a table at The Spotted Cheetah, a pop-up restaurant open Aug. 15-17 for dinner during Restaurant Week in New York City. The menu features Cheetos-filled recipes like Cheetos Crusted Fried Pickles, Cheetos Mix-ups Crusted Chicken Milanese and White Cheddar Cheetos and Cheetos Sweetos Apple Crepes created by celebrity chef Anne Burrell. The project, which was developed by agency The Marketing Arm, is supported by a website, video and social media.
The results: The Spotted Cheetah efficiently brings together several key trends in marketing right now, so while not terribly innovative, it's likely to appeal to the brand's diehard fans and gain earned media. Inventive menu items that inspire consumers to snap and share are popular with brands trying to reach Instagram's large audience, as we saw earlier this year with Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino.
The goal isn't so much to be appetizing — how many people actually would want to eat Cheetos-crusted cheesecake? Or, for that matter, the insect-laced ice cream offered at The Economist's food truck earlier this year? Instead, by appealing to younger consumers' desire for authentic experiences, Cheetos has created a wholly-owned interactive experience that is likely to encourage diners to share photos and talk about the brand online, something Taco Bell did earlier this year by opening its test kitchen for reservations on Cinco de Mayo. By only opening the restaurant for a few days, Cheetos is betting that a fear of missing out will further drive excitement around the event.
The Spotted Cheetah is the latest cheesy effort from a brand that released a luxury holiday catalog last year and offered an Easter clothing line several months ago. With initial reservation spots apparently already filled and a wait list created, could there be a Cheetos-inspired Thanksgiving cookbook in our future?
Ikea takes students on a soothing college tour with ASMR video
The rundown: ASMR — or autonomous sensory meridian response — is a tingly, semi-euphoric sensation stoked in some people by listening to whispering or other repetitive, soothing sound effects. While not everyone is affected by this, enough are to have turned ASMR into its own vibrant subculture on platforms like YouTube — seriously, put ASMR into the search bar and see how many results come up — and now brands are getting in on the action as well.
Swedish retailer Ikea, as part of a back-to-school campaign called "Oddly Ikea," is tapping into ASMR's popularity with a tour through a college dormitory entirely outfitted in its furniture, according to Adweek. The effort, made with the help of Ogilvy in New York, features a 25-minute ASMR video with detailed item descriptions offered by a breathy female narrator, along with a series of shorter clips displaying individual products like cushions and closet organizers.
The effort follows a back-to-school influencer push on Snapchat from July, Adweek said. Headphones are recommended for the optimal experience:
The results: ASMR has a huge cult following online — Adweek noted it's especially popular with younger viewers — and Ikea isn't the first brand to offer its own take on the whisper-heavy genre. Yum! Brands' KFC ran a campaign last summer that featured Col. Harland Sanders softly munching on some fried chicken, though that effort probably read as more disturbing than relaxing to most viewers.
Ikea, to its credit, is offering something closer to the real deal, with a whopping 25-minute YouTube showcase on its official Ikea USA page. Beyond better replicating the format and feel of an authentic, unbranded ASMR video, the expanded length allows the narrator to describe each product and its pricing in detail — an extra bit of effort that might help win over student shoppers who are being inundated with otherwise straightforward back-to-school promotions.
Response to the campaign, at least judging from the YouTube comments, is a little mixed, though criticisms seem to be coming more from those who don't understand the weirdness of ASMR at all.
Chiquita's ripe take on 'eclipse fever'
The rundown: In 15- and 30-second videos released Monday, Chiquita teased its over-the-top campaign that satirizes "eclipse fever" as North Americans gear up for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The full video announcement — which went live Wednesday and was made with Funny or Die and agency Wieden & Kennedy — encourages everyone to check out the "Banana Sun," a faux phenomenon Chiquita jokingly claims is caused by its turning the "burning ball of gas in the center of our solar system into a giant banana" in the seconds just before and after the eclipse.
The silliness continues on a Chiquita microsite — TheBananaSun.com, of course — with a countdown clock, dancing "nanner" person and ridiculous FAQs about putting a Chiquita sticker on the actual sun and rescheduling the eclipse for 2024 in the case of inclement weather.
The result: Eclipse-related marketing is quickly ramping up but Chiquita gets points for really committing to the idea and bringing a lot of humor to its campaign. The short teaser videos ran on social media and collectively won half a million views on YouTube, while the full clip has just a few hundred so far. The company plans to roll out a Facebook Messenger chatbot on Aug. 14 to tell users the best time to catch the Banana Sun based on where they live, as well as film a livestream of the event, both of which will likely boost the campaign's reach in the days to come.
Chiquita will also host an out-of-home installation near the Flatiron Building in New York City and hand out banana-shaped eclipse-viewing glasses on Aug. 20.
— Natalie Koltun