Applebee's rolls out new ad campaign

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Applebee’s launched Monday a new advertising campaign designed to highlight a new-and-improved, food-focused brand, along with a “Fresh Flavors of Summer” menu with seasonal ingredients.

The campaign is the first produced by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the Boulder, Colo.-based agency that the 2,000-unit chain hired in March. It features a new tagline: “See You Tomorrow.” The message: Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar is a place for every day, not just for special occasions.

The campaign includes a series of television, radio and outdoor ads, along with in-store elements. Applebee’s has also reworked its website and created a more mobile-phone friendly web page.

Mike Archer, Applebee’s president, said the campaign also highlights overall changes at the Kansas City, Mo.-based chain designed to deliver an experience that brings guests back.

“‘See You Tomorrow’ isn’t just a line in a commercial. It’s our commitment to build on the strengths that made Applebee’s a foundation in the neighborhood and to do what it takes going forward to earn our guests’ business every day,” he said in a statement. “‘See You Tomorrow’ is how we will tell our story, literally every day, in every booth and on every plate, in a new and welcoming environment that invites guests to focus on our high-quality ingredients, prepared perfectly for them.”

Since the Glendale, Calif.-based company that became DineEquity Inc. acquired Applebee’s in 2007, the brand has been going through a revitalization effort that has included remodels and a menu overhaul.

By the end of this year, more than half of Applebee’s restaurants will have a new look, including a new logo on signage and awnings, redesigned interiors, and a revamp of the bar.

The Tiffany-style stained-glass lamps and 3-D pop art that once defined Applebee’s are gone, and each restaurant’s décor attempts to better reflect the neighborhood where it is located.

Company officials say the changes appear to be working.

Restaurants that have completed the upgrade are seeing mid-single-digit increases in sales, the company said in May after reporting first-quarter results. Applebee’s domestic systemwide same-store sales for the quarter were up 1.2 percent. However, that increase was driven mostly by a higher average check that was offset by a decline in traffic.

With the new look has also come a new focus on food. More than 85 percent of Applebee’s menu is new or has been upgraded.

The new ad campaign attempts to communicate Applebee’s’ “culinary credibility,” said Becky Johnson, Applebee’s senior vice president of culinary and marketing. And the new "we obssess" commercials appear to poke a little fun at recent foodie-focused ads by chains from McDonald’s to Red Lobster that highlight quality ingredients.

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