Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Just Slice It, Impute It

Earlier this week, I noticed I was being peppered with Arby's commercials during the breaks of a hockey game I was watching.

While the company's past brand positions (I'm Thinking Arby's and It's Good Mood Food) basically reinforced nothing tangible to the consumer, their latest campaign, originally announced in October, does make an attempt at giving consumers something they can hang their hungry hats on - that the food served at Arby's is sliced fresh.  With an assist from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Arby's is now "slicing up freshness."  Or at least so they say.

By the third or fourth Arby's ad I saw that night, I suddenly found myself watching intently as their ads flashed from the screen, triumphantly offering a position that consumers could understand.   But would they believe it?  I certainly have my doubts; there was a distinct disconnect between its overall position and the special two sandwiches for $5 offer they poured onto the end of the ad.

Despite their attempts via advertising to gain a reputation for slicing fresh, Arby's won't ever achieve this reputation if they don't impute it in everything they do.  Price is most definitely seen as a critical reflection of quality.  

Another way to impute this position is to actually be seen slicing the meat in the restaurant.  While I cannot recall my last visit to Arby's, anecdotal evidence via Brand Eating suggests that the deli slicers were moved from the customers’ sights long ago.  Moving them back would go a long way in supporting its position.

But it doesn't stop there, regardless of their quip that "it all begins and ends with the slicer."  Even though the campaign is focused on freshly sliced meat, the freshness of the bread they serve is obviously important in convincing consumers of their position.  Furthermore, freshness is imputed in how the meal is served; sandwiches that are wrapped in traditional foil and served on a run-of-the-mill plastic cafeteria trays are a cue to consumers of the low-price, low-quality fast food experience that those items help define for generations.  Understanding the old adage that consumers eat with their eyes first is paramount to Arby's gaining traction with its new higher-end brand position.     

Arby's could even go further in its advertising.  Single-handedly, the term fresh is vague.  Without further evidence to support it, Arby's is really just furthering the trivialization of it.  Perhaps Arby's could substantiate its freshness claim by discussing what suppliers they use, how the product is raised or approximately how long it takes to reach your plate?  Is it ever frozen?  Do they use a special rub to season it?  How long is it cooked for?...  Exploring these topics would be a good start. 

So while I like Arby’s new brand positioning, I just don't see any reason to believe them yet. 

As always, thanks for reading and for sharing.

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