With San Diego Comic-Con taking place virtually for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19, brands looking to engage with pop culture obsessives around the event needed to find the right digital channels. For San Diego-based fast-food chain Jack in the Box, that channel was Discord, the chat and communication platform that has seen its popularity accelerate during the pandemic, with monthly active users nearly tripling since 2019 to 150 million.
During the first 24 hours of "Jack's Late Night Discord," the brand saw a total of 5,560 members on Discord — more than five times the platform's benchmark for members on a branded community — eventually notching 7,664 users across the entire weekend, per details emailed to Marketing Dive. Jack in the Box saw 200 new members join specifically from its tweet announcing a virtual concert with superhero-themed band The Aquabats, and now has the second biggest branded community within Discord, based on the number of members.
For Jack in the Box — the "go-to QSR for late-night munchies," according to CMO Ryan Ostrom — activating on Discord to celebrate Comic-Con weekend was a natural fit.
"We wanted to ensure Jack in the Box was taking an authentic approach to owning late night and building equity with gamers and comic book fans with a culture first approach," Ostrom said via emailed comments. "Discord was the perfect platform to host our digital after party because it allowed us to take a personalized approach in engaging with our communities."
The event generated more than 27,000 messages through a variety of elements. Along with the concert, the event included interactive channels dedicated to Funko Pop figures, the Marvel Cinematic and DC Universes, a product "leak" and an NFT auction, bringing a variety of tactics that marketers have used to build brands and communities to a chat platform that is surging in popularity.
With the activation, the brand was able to connect with digital-first Gen Z consumers in a culturally relevant way, as it has done on other platforms and through partnerships with influencers, artists and creators, Ostrom explained. Previously, Jack in the Box connected with gamers with a drone delivery during a Twitch livestream and by encouraging fans to post highlight clips on Reddit.
"We knew that our gaming and comic book fans were on Discord and that the platform is made up of communities focused on shared interests and activities, so we made sure it was a core aspect of Jack's Late Night Discord," he said.
Discord was launched in 2015 and lets users communicate via voice, video and text in both private chats and on community-focused servers, of which there are currently 19. As with other chat apps and platforms — especially those centered around gaming — Discord has seen increased usage during the pandemic as consumers look to stay connected with friends, family and online communities.
The platform has also rolled out a feature called Stage Channels that seeks to tap into interest around live audio chats, a trend spurred by Clubhouse. Brands including Jose Cuervo have used Discord as part of marketing efforts, but it remains largely untapped by marketers, even as its valuation reached $7 billion at the end of 2020.
Along with Jack in the Box's focus on Discord, the Comic-Con event included one of the moment's buzziest marketing tactics: a non-fungible token, or NFT. Comic book artist Dave Johnson was enlisted to draw the brand's mascot in different styles or genres that were suggested by attendees, and the completed artwork was converted into an NFT. A first for the brand, the NFT element saw Jack in the Box join marketers including Coca-Cola, Domino's and Campbell's soup as interest in the so-called metaverse grows.
"For the artwork to be converted into a NFT presents the brand an opportunity to enter a new digital space and extend the value of existing products and services," Ostrom said. "Connecting with our consumers is our number one priority and NFTs provide a unique medium for us to get them excited."