The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed a digital acceleration that has forced consumers and the business community to shift their routine behaviors. Unfortunately, amid safety concerns, regulations and revenue disruptions, many businesses have had to close their doors indefinitely. However, one industry is particularly thriving – the fast food industry – as the drive-thru option is not only convenient but provides a sense of normalcy. Popeyes and McDonald’s saw over a 2% increase in traffic compared to last year’s numbers. Fox Business published that Coronavirus has boosted Chipotle’s digital sales by 80%.
Digital strategy is the driving force behind this successful business shift. Each chain had already implemented online campaigns to set themselves apart from one another, but what is truly putting these brands on the map (or on the phones of consumers) during lockdown measures and social distancing is online branding.
Fast food chains have created a digital presence with their voice. They are able to engage and converse with users like an online peer rather than a stiff corporate brand. Wendy’s, for example, is famously known for their spicy Twitter account. Brands are reaching their audiences in a personal way by creating relationships with their followings.
This interaction takes responsive engagement a step further by embodying a brand personality. Taco Bell has positioned themselves as a millennial brand that is “the cool friend.” Utilizing social media as a driver for branding makes sense, especially since 18 to 24 year-olds are twice as likely to check social media before a restaurant’s website, according to Bottle Rocket.
Fast-food chains tend to be remarkably astute at brand placement. They are partnering with delivery services and putting their name in the forefront of consumer options. They are providing deals that are catering to the budget-conscious college student or the family of four.
Many chains are offering family meal deals, free delivery and coupons. They are literally driving business to their doors. Each chain is choosing the right positioning that is aligned with their brand. For example, McDonald’s creating “advergames” (online games with subtle advertising) for kids to have them engage with the brand in a format that places their brand on their target audience’s tablet.
From campaigns as simple as Taco Bell’s Taco Tuesday to more layered campaigns such as Saladworks 30 Day Wellness Challenge, these brands are meeting their audiences where they are (likely on the couch). These tactics help create their brand persona while meeting their consumer’s needs.
Whether it be their limited funds or mental health, they are thinking about their customers. These strategies also create limitless sharable content that helps with brand placement and amplifies their organic reach.
Brands that can successfully leverage this digital shift will be able to continue their growth even after this worldwide pandemic is over. They have created a sense of comfort by fulfilling their consumers wants in a time of need. Fast food chains have proven the benefits of developing a relationship with consumers through digital means. While this digital shift is changing how businesses will operate, companies must build brand presence online so that they will not only stay afloat during this pandemic but thrive.
Mikaila Cordeau is a public relations and content development intern at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations agency headquartered in Philadelphia. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com. Follow Mikaila on Twitter at @CordeauMikaila.