“Wood-Fired Rebrand”

May 19, 2016
“Wood-Fired Rebrand”

The Casual-Dining category of the restaurant biz has endured some tough grilling these past few years, due in large part to the fast-casual preferences of always-on Millennials. A veteran of the casual-dining ring, Applebee’s is now luring consumers back to their booths with its biggest marketing initiative to date. For this large-scale campaign, Applebee’s called on Rock & Roll songs as hot as its new wood-fired grills to recapture America’s neighborhoods.





Jessie LaBelle, Music Dealers Senior Creative Director

The Challenge

Break Through the Clutter

According to Applebee’s CMO Darin Dugan, the brand sought a compelling campaign to “break them out of the sea of sameness.” So, they launched the most significant initiative in its 36-year history with lead agency Barkley, led by ECD Jason Elm, EP Susan Neuman, and Sr. Producer Ruth Collins. With such great stakes on the table (and new hand-cut steaks on the menu), the ads needed a bold contrast to differentiate the brand from the usual advertising frenzy of the restaurant industry.

The Solution

Famous Song Clearance

The campaign is fueled by iconic rock music, which was cleared with their major publishers by the Music Dealers team, including AC/DC’s “Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” Further, the client also licensed the song, “Comeback Special” from Music Dealers artist The Sleepers to fit with the other spots. These hard rock anthems help beckon eyes to the screen and bellies to the booth, as America turns once again to Applebee's as a heartland favorite.

The Result

Hot Brand Relaunch

On May 16, Applebee’s unveiled the results of its $75 million investment — wood-fired grills in nearly 2,000 of its U.S. restaurants, USDA Choice steaks as the signature item of a revamped menu, and this bold ad campaign featuring songs as hot as their new kitchen additions. Music Dealers is proud to have played a part in Applebee’s ambitious rebrand and help them “instill pride in franchisee team members, delight current guests, and give others a reason to give back,” as DineEquity chairman and CEO Julia Stewart explained.

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