Promotions | August 2014 | By Barbara Basbanes Richter

Double Take

Brands tackle quality perception with honest advertising.
Fast food brands focus on transparent advertising campaigns to attract customers.
Arby’s broke a world record with its wordless 13-hour commercial depicting its brisket-smoking process. Arby’s

Quick-serve restaurants continue to aggressively promote high-quality ingredients in their ad campaigns. This past spring, national sandwich chain Arby’s broadcast a wordless 13-hour commercial in Duluth, Minnesota—as well as online—displaying its brisket cooking process to demonstrate the brand’s premium in-house smoking.

Jeff Baker, Arby’s senior director of brand experience, says the company’s record-breaking commercial illustrates a strong commitment to excellence. “We have a tradition of providing high-quality meats and sandwiches and continually exploring opportunities that showcase our products simply and authentically,” he says.

Arby’s TV spot matches quality-perception efforts by many quick-serve chains, like Domino’s 2010 “Pizza Turnaround” campaign, in which the chain apologized for tasteless pizza and announced a recipe revamp.

“Our brand perception for delivery was really high. Customers recognized that Domino’s could deliver a pizza quickly,” says Chris Brandon, spokesman for Domino’s. “But if they wanted a really good pizza, they probably called somebody else.” The move was very successful for the pizza chain, and it was able to strike a positive chord with customers because “people were looking for honesty,” Brandon says.

Dr. Stephen Jones, a professor at Arkansas Tech University who studies quality perception among quick serves, says Americans are eating out about as much as they did a decade ago. But those customers are savvier than before, making it necessary for brands to give guests a look into the kitchen, he says.

“Since customer growth is neutral, these companies are vying for each other’s customer. And right now, the target market is well educated about food preparation,” he says. “If you look at the meat on a roast beef sandwich at Arby’s, that meat does not look the same as the meat you cut from a roast. So the company addresses it with the 13-hour smoking brisket ad.”

Arby’s is banking on that quality perception to attract customers new and old. “Our core customer has always been interested in our ingredients and the craft of our preparation,” Baker says.

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