SO, how do you make relevant brand news that sticks and generates immediate positive impact in the market place? The fact that consumers are flooded with news and information, through both mainstream and social media, creates a powerful opportunity for PR Pros to seize the day with storytelling that gives their brand new context and gets people talking. Every news hound and pop culture vulture has the ability to use social listening to identify opportunities that can become BIG brand wins…
Which is exactly how we scored major news coverage for our beloved client, A&W, home of Canada’s best-tasting burger, when The Ketchup Wars erupted across the country on February 23, 2016. That’s when an ordinary citizen named Brian Fernandez wrote a personal message to his 400 Facebook friends stating that he and his family were switching to French’s Ketchup. Why? Because French’s is made in Canada with real Canadian tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ontario, unlike that other major brand that sold its Canadian plant and moved production to the US.
The post went viral in just a few days, capturing the attention of Canada’s media, influencers and opinion leaders. Coincidentally, and concurrently, a major Canadian supermarket chain announced it was removing made-in-Canada French’s Ketchup from its stores in favour of the rival US brand, thus engaging the wrath of patriotic condiment-lovers from coast to coast. In response to public outcry, the retailer quickly reversed its decision, and promised the return of French’s. But, the tsunami of social chatter was unstoppable and consumers began taking sides. One thing was clear: Canadians were tilting their ketchup bottles in favour of French’s.
Our client, A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. had been quietly working over the past six months to transition its ketchup and mustard supply to The French’s Food Company. Committed to serving simple, great-tasting ingredients, farmed with care, A&W had recognized the benefits of going local, especially since French’s Ketchup and Mustard are made without preservatives or artificial flavours and colours, and contain 100% Canadian tomatoes, and 100% Canadian mustard seeds.
Front page news coverage featuring Canadians raising their French’s Ketchup bottles high presented us with the perfect opportunity to announce A&W’s partnership with French’s, and win tremendous goodwill. Strategic timing was critical — too late and the story would be dead. Too early, and A&W could get lost in the chatter.
Strategic Objectives carefully watched and listened to create a breakthrough plan to newsjack the story. In collaboration with the A&W marketing team, we devised a precisely-timed public and media relations program to launch and celebrate the introduction of French’s Ketchup at A&W restaurants. We had NO paid or owned support, but there were hundreds of journalists, bloggers and social consumers eager to adopt on The Ketchup Wars. Our announcement relied 100% on pure, earned media and organic social spread.
Utilizing our propriety media/blogger/influencer database — SO Connected — we carefully tracked the media, commentators, and key opinion leaders propelling Ketchup Wars news, and gave them our story.
Our A&W announcement immediately provoked a new media frenzy. The story secured more than 73 million positive and branded earned media impressions (Canada has a population of 36 million) within 48 hours. Highlights included CBC News, CTV News, Global National, BNN, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, CBC Radio One, 680 News, HuffingtonPost.ca and Canoe.com, to name drop just a few. Several media outlets shared their stories on Twitter which yielded close to 1,000 Twitter mentions and more than 13 million additional positive branded impressions.
We also conducted key opinion leader outreach, which secured positive support from dignitaries, including Toronto-area MPP Mike Colle; Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Jeff Leal; and John Paterson, the Mayor of Leamington, where French’s ketchup tomatoes are grown.
This program generated tremendous positive coverage for A&W and its French’s partnership and unprecedented positive consumer response, with A&W receiving a record breaking number of guest compliments and congratulations. Sales at the Leamington A&W restaurant went up 100% in the days following our announcement.
This case study proves that knowing what’s going on in your neighbourhood, community, city, region, country, and beyond is KEY to success in making news with news. A strategic PR Pro needs to be connected, engaged, and aware at all times, and recognize that branded coverage can be SO much more powerful, relevant and impactful if it’s situated within real-time news and addresses social conversation in a timely manner.
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