Gold Star Chili, a 95-store restaurant chain specializing in producing and serving Cincinnati-style chili, is campaigning to have Cincinnati officially recognized as Chilitown USA.
“Cincinnati-style chili is our hometown dish and has a growing national awareness,” says Gold Star Chili marketing director, Charlie Howard. “There are passionate, emotional debates as to the merits of each person’s favorite brand, but one thing that we can all agree on is that eating and celebrating Cincinnati-style chili is one of the defining characteristics and traditions of living here.”
This initiative is using a variety of traditional advertising and public relations tactics, combined with the new capabilities of social media to launch and sustain the initiative.
Traditional advertising efforts feature “Welcome To Chilitown USA” billboards and signage at gateway locations throughout the city, including the arrival terminal at Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, inside and outside of the Cincinnati Bengals Paul Brown stadium, and on the I-75 bridge entering downtown Cincinnati from Northern Kentucky. Gold Star is also using the term Chilitown USA in its newest television commercials.
The centerpiece of traditional public relations methods has been a well-publicized petition drive to collect 50,000 signatures that kicked off on February 28, which was National Chili Day. Once gathered, Gold Star plans a rally at Cincinnati City Hall to present the petition signatures to the mayor and city council. Petitions are available for signature at any Gold Star Chili restaurant, at a variety of community events throughout the spring and summer months, and online at www.ChilitownUSA.com.
In addition to the Chilitown USA website, other digital tactics have included regular Facebook and Twitter postings and the creation of a “non-denominational” Help Us Name Cincinnati Chilitown USA Facebook fan page targeted to all Cincinnati chili lovers, whatever their individual brand preference. The page, with no promotion other than viral, earned more than 5,000 fans in its first thee weeks of existence. A blog, Cincinnati Chili Chat, extolling the virtues and idiosyncrasies of Cincinnati-style chili, is also part of the digital toolkit for this initiative.
To date, Gold Star has collected nearly 10,000 petition signatures and believes that the 50,000-signature goal will be achieved by the end of the summer. “And by the end of that time,” says Howard, “there will be exponential awareness for Cincinnati’s unique embrace of its signature cheese coney and 3-way (spaghetti, chili, and mounds of shredded cheddar cheese). To state it ‘Cincinnati-style,’ to have Cincinnati recognized as Chilitown USA is a 3-way win; for the category of Cincinnati chili, for all of the local chili brands, and for the city.”