BJ’s Restaurants Inc. has launched its first multimedia campaign, called “One for All,” to integrate television and digital advertising more prominently into its marketing initiatives, which also include new menu items and the test of mobile ordering.

BJ’s has stated publicly that marketing expenditures in the first quarter would increase to $5.5 million, compared with $3.4 million in the first quarter of 2013.

Amid a difficult fourth quarter and more recent trouble with activist shareholders, the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based brand revealed several new marketing plans. The consumer research driving those initiatives had been in development even before the arrival of Tim Hackbardt, who took over as vice president of marketing last November.

Hackbardt said the “One for All” positioning reflects BJ’s strategy to court several demographics by showing the ways different groups simultaneously enjoy the restaurant’s 120 menu items or 50 craft beers, regardless of daypart.

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“What we’re able to do with this campaign is instead of treating the creative in a bland way that just says ‘everything to everyone,’ we can be specific in the occasion yet show how many different people can be served with this,” he said.

A ‘counterintuitive’ campaign

Hackbardt conceded that, “Marketing 101 is don’t be all things to all people, so [‘One for All’ is] completely counterintuitive.” Yet the chain’s customer research kept showing that its guests consider BJ’s a place to go for most occasions.

The consumer insights made sense to BJ’s officials when they considered that the restaurants are designed with an open floor plan that does not delineate the bar area and the dining room to the degree that other casual-dining chains do. BJ’s customer base indicated through the study that they were comfortable with the way family occasions take place in full view of the bar area, or how a date night for parents can happen successfully one table over from a crowded table of singles, Hackbardt said.

“We did all this research, and what came back was BJ’s is the place where really we can take anybody,” he said. “It works for meeting friends for beer and appetizers, or a birthday party for Grandma, or a company holiday party, and on and on. … We couldn’t run away from it after we saw all the defining research.”

Hackbardt called the “One for All” campaign launch the largest media effort in BJ’s history, encompassing television, print, digital and social media. The first two TV commercials, which attempt to blend slick food photography and humor, will appear in 11 markets that cover 78 restaurants, or slightly more than half of BJ’s total unit count.

One commercial, called “Hopstorm,” shows off BJ’s bar business, featuring three guys ordering different craft beers while ogling three attractive women in the bar for a ladies’ night. The fun ends for one of the male patrons when his wife shows up unexpectedly after book club lets out early.

The other spot, “Princess Pizookie,” demonstrates a family occasion for BJ’s. A blonde child actress leads her family into BJ’s dining room, where she can get her favorite pizza while Dad orders the ribs. When BJ’s signature Pizookie dessert is brought to the table, the girl warns that she’s “crazy for” the item, which she reinforces by yelling at her parents, “Get your own,” like a woman possessed.

Measuring effectiveness

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The reactions to the new commercials were “almost unpredictable” during the campaign’s test and since they began airing, Hackbardt said, which gave him confidence that the “One for All” message would reach BJ’s audience without diluting the brand’s positioning.

BJ’s has integrated several other elements into the TV campaign in order to track the overall effort’s effectiveness. Both commercials are tagged at the end with an invitation to visit the brand’s website or Facebook page to access a coupon for $5 off the next purchase of at least $20.

BJ’s also has more than 1 million members in its email marketing database, and more than 650,000 people have liked its Facebook page.

“To get the offer you have to go to our website and Facebook page, which helps us see how much engagement is happening off that medium,” Hackbardt said. “A strategy is to send people to the website so they learn more about BJ’s rather than assume they already know what we’re about. They may go and find the Premier Rewards Program and want to join it, which builds the database for future messaging and interaction for other guests.”

A four-page freestanding insert will reach about 4.6 million households, showing off several new menu items, like a Salted Caramel Pizookie dessert or Cherry Chipotle Glazed Salmon, Hackbardt said. The offer on the back of the insert is for a free Pizookie if the person registers for the Premier Rewards loyalty club.

BJ’s owns and operates 146 restaurants in 17 states.

Contact Mark Brandau at
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