The other day I saw this tweet by Peter Drury referencing Canlis’ “[o]utstanding strategic use of social media”. Click through to the original article in Seattle Weekly by Jason Sheehan and you’ll see that Canlis has developed a plan to use Twitter to publish clues to the location of 50 Canlis menus from 1950, each of which are hidden at various places around Seattle. Find a menu and you get treated to a sumptuous dinner for 1950’s prices – ten bucks.
First, a little context. Canlis is one of THE preeminent luxury restaurants in Seattle. It’s the type of place that you make reservations well in advance for those once-a-decade celebrations – significant wedding anniversaries, making partner at the law firm, parents’ 75th birthdays, that sort of thing. Unless, of course, you have money to burn and you keep a tab at Canlis and eat there several times a month, as my late father-in-law did for a number of years. It is not cheap and I would wager that something like 95% of the major metropolitan Seattle population has NEVER eaten at Canlis. It’s a place that (sad to say) has the whiff of Brylcreem about it – I’m guessing the average age of the guests is well over 50, maybe even 60.
So, to the point – will this twitter scavenger hunt strategy work? Let’s go back to the goals of any restaurant. I would posit that the following list is a good start:
- Get (paying) butts in seats
- Develop mindshare among current or future customers
- Defend and enhance the brand
Get (paying) butts in seats. I would argue that this scavenger hunt strategy is not going to significantly increase the traffic into Canlis. First of all, it’s too expensive to make reservations on a whim, unless you’re the type of person to go there anyway. It *might* take some small incremental business away from competitors like El Gaucho, The Met, or Rover’s, but enough to make a difference? Hm.
Develop mindshare among current or future customers. I think that the probable intersection between Twitter enthusiasts and regular Canlis guests is about 5. As in, 5 people, all of whom made millions selling companies to Google or Microsoft. So that’s a #fail. Future customers? Possible. Today’s tweeps are tomorrow’s old money. That’s a long-term bet, however.
Defend and enhance the brand. It may be that Mark is actively trying to reposition Canlis as less of an old-guard, iconic, special-occasion place and more of a hip, world-class restaurant that caters to a younger crowd with some disposable income. I don’t know. But as it stands right now, the Twitter campaign seems awfully awkward, given the current clientele and reputation of Canlis within the Seattle cultural scene. It chafes. It would be sort of like DeBeers doing a campaign centered around Kanye West’s diamond dentures.
In summary, I do think that the menu scavenger hunt is a neat idea. I do not, however, think that it’s a natural fit for a social media campaign, given Canlis’ current brand.
Having said that, the question goes begging: how does a luxury/upscale brand take advantage of social media? That’s a very interesting question.
I think that first of all, defending the brand position remains paramount in *any* marketing campaign. Tacking to the middle because it’s cool is a long-term loser proposition. Twitter is not yet an elite marketing medium (on average).
Rewarding loyal guests would be a useful strategic goal. The people who can afford Canlis twice can afford it ten times, so getting eight extra $800 dinners over the course of the year from this crowd would be nice. So using Twitter, Facebook, or blogging to encourage repeat visits with information, specials, new menu items, limited-run dishes, etc. would be interesting.
Promoting the brand by cross-pollination with other brands with a similar customer profile would be interesting. So teaming up on promoting campaigns from ritzy local charities, civic programs initiated by or supported by the Seattle old guard, etc. would be interesting.
Inviting key influencers from the younger Twitter crowd to come in for a free meal and blog about their meals would be interesting. This is where a service like Klout might come in handy – identify the up-and-coming foodies, bring them into Canlis, one or two per week, and promote their published experiences to the younger crowd. This has two beneficial outcomes – you’re explicitly not impinging upon the existing brand, but you’re getting word out to the next generation of customers in the media that they are comfortable with.
What I would not recommend is a “Mark Canlis twitter stream”. What little I know about the business leads me to believe that unless the restaurant owner eats, sleeps and breathes social media, attempts to personalize the business with an open dialogue with the social-media universe ends up being either slightly or mostly awkward, if not humorously PR-catastrophic.
OK. I’ve written a ton. What do you think? Leave a comment!