Reporter's Notebook

Arby's deft punking at the Grammys

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I missed the Grammys last night, but there’s no way anybody who follows restaurant marketing could have missed all the digital love* Arby’s got this morning on Twitter, with more than 78,000 retweets and 43,000 favorites of its hysterical shot taken at musician Pharrell Williams.

For the few people left who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me recap what happened one more time* for you: Pharrell — one of music’s best-known producers, a frequent A-list collaborator and vocalist, and lead emcee of underrated group N.E.R.D. — wore this hat last night to the Grammys. On purpose.

He took the stage four times to accept awards with Daft Punk, the French electronic-dance duo whose “Random Access Memories” won album of the year and whose song “Get Lucky,” featuring Williams’ vocals, won three more Grammys. All night, people were poking fun at Williams’ hat, referencing Smokey the Bear most often.

And then whoever handles Arby’s social-media presence stole the show with, “Hey, @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs.”

Did Arby’s just get lucky* last night on the way to viral success? Yes and no. First, it was extremely fortunate that Pharrell’s sartorial choices included this 100-gallon hat that really does bear striking resemblance to Arby’s logo. But the quick-thinking marketing staffer or brand manager who ran the chain’s social-media profiles was just simply good at his or her job to capitalize on the opportunity.

Coincidentally, this whole situation played out two days after a story I wrote about many restaurant brands taking a social-media-focused tack with Super Bowl advertising this year, forgoing expensive ad buys during the game but building campaigns around hash tags and no doubt bolstering their presence on Twitter during the big game. Everybody is probably hoping to recreate Oreo’s success last year from its, “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet that they created on the spot after the lights went out in the Super Dome for Super Bowl XLVII.

Well, Arby’s pulled that off last night in a major televised event that most people make a point to watch live, which is what allows real-time social marketing to spread as fast as it does and create the kind of buzz brands crave.

Nobody could have foreseen Pharrell’s hat, but Arby’s was paying attention and pounced with a simple tweet that didn’t try too hard, and the brand is reaping the earned-media rewards for it. It’s worth noting that the chain has composed only one tweet since it landed a haymaker on Pharrell, the Twitter equivalent of dropping the mic and leaving on a high note.

It did, however, retweet a playful retort from Pharrell, who was not in search of** a comeback for long: “Y’all tryna start a roast beef?”

 

* Daft Punk song reference!

** N.E.R.D. album reference!

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