Restaurant chains are partnering with a variety of recognizable brands this summer — from candy to movies — to help their campaigns break through the din of peak promotional season.


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Marketers from Culver’s and Menchie’s said that when it comes to choosing brands for partnerships, it’s critical to select a partner with the right fit for the brand’s positioning and core values.

Here’s a look at how and why the two restaurant chains teamed up with outside brands for their latest summer promotions.

Culver’s and Reese’s

The prevailing theme of quick-service chain Culver’s “Welcome to Delicious” campaign of the past several years is ingredient quality, which often involves founder and chief executive Craig Culver sharing the screen with the nearly 500-unit brand’s farmer suppliers in commercials. To promote its featured frozen-custard Concrete Mixer this summer, Culver’s is extending that same treatment to its signature treat’s most popular topping, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Culver's

In his restaurant’s latest commercial, Culver calls the Concrete Mixer “the creamiest way to enjoy a Reese’s,” saying that Culver’s puts as much thought into its frozen custard as the candy company puts into its peanut butter cup.

“We can take our brand story and align it with one of our partners to where it all comes together to fit under ‘Welcome to Delicious,’ and that’s a win for both of us,” vice president of marketing David Stidham said. “There is a quality fit and an integrity fit on the ingredient, and that authenticity and transparency are what ‘Welcome to Delicious’ is all about.”

The campaign launched June 26, and in the first week and a half, “it’s beating expectations by a very big margin already,” Stidham said. That even accounts for the fact that Reese’s Concrete Mixers are already the most popular flavor for the dessert.

“We decided to take something we knew people had a passion for and call more attention to it,” Stidham said. “We promote our core meal opportunities all year-round, and when we choose summer to promote this dessert, we followed the philosophy of fishing where the fish are biting.”

In a concurrent “Share the Love” promotion on Facebook, Culver’s fans could share humorous peanut-butter-cup-themed e-cards on their friends’ Facebook walls to receive a buy-one-get-one coupon for Reese’s Concrete Mixers and to enter into a sweepstakes for $250 gift cards.

Stidham said Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s is already developing similar promotions with other supplier partners for next year.

Menchie's and "The Smurfs 2"

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Frozen-yogurt chain Menchie’s kicked off its biggest summer promotion in its history this month by thinking small, as in the little blue cartoon characters starring in Sony Pictures’ “The Smurfs 2.” Through July 31, the 300-unit chain will transform itself into “Smenchie’s,” with a promotional “Smurfberry Blast” flavor of frozen yogurt, a red and blue collectable cup resembling the Smurfs’ cartoon mushroom, and movie tie-ins with its radio commercials.

Menchie's and The Smurfs 2

The “Smenchie’s” campaign is Menchie’s first marketing initiative involving any entertainment property, chief executive Amit Kleinberger said, and the choice of tying in with the family-friendly “Smurfs 2” movie reflected the characters’ positive associations with all three of Menchie’s audience groups.

“We’re a three-life-cycle brand — children, adults and seniors — and the Smurfs are compatible with all of them,” Kleinberger said. “They stand for similar values that we do. They’re funny and a little clumsy, with different personalities, and at the end of the day they make the world a better place. There’s no better fit for a family-oriented brand like ours.”

Encino, Calif.-based Menchie’s started developing the campaign with Sony last July, Kleinberger said, and the long lead time allowed Menchie’s to create the Smurfberry flavor, which turns customers’ tongues blue when they eat it. He envisions the Smurf-mushroom cups becoming a hit with Menchie’s very young customers and staying in their homes long after the promotion is over.

Of more immediate benefit to the brand would be new radio commercials starring famous voices from the “Smurfs 2” movie, including George Lopez and Katy Perry, he added.

“It’s a big, big project, but we’re already working on several new entertainment properties,” Kleinberger said. “We absolutely can’t wait to launch them.”

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN