Naked Ambition Riffing on its playfully named new product, Buffalo Wild Wings takes it all off on TV.
By Margaret Littman
Wings. Beer. Sports.” This tagline is the operational trifecta for Buffalo Wild Wings, a simple distillation of everything for which the concept stands. What else could the chain possibly add to court more of the 18- to 49-year-old demographic? Nudity, of course.
The Minneapolis-based company spent months developing Naked Tenders, a more healthful alternative to its fried and battered wings doused with one of 12 signature sauces. After adding them to the menu in August, the $511 million chain began airing television spots for the nonbreaded chicken tenders in September on both network and cable TV in major markets.
The Naked Truth
While the chain has aired a dozen TV commercials in select markets over the last six years, the Naked Tenders ad is the first with Atlanta-based WestWayne, Buffalo Wild Wings’ agency since December 2004. WestWayne spent three months developing the TV spots, point-of-purchase materials and radio ads, which take a light-hearted approach to a product the chain hopes will attract more female customers to its stores, given the perceived health benefits.
Buffalo Wild Wings
2004 Systemwide Sales
2005 Systemwide Sales
2005 Ad Budget
20 company stores; 50 to 55 franchises in 2006
*Chain Leader estimate
While the product, ad agency and target demographic may be new, the name and marketing approach is consistent with the 23-year-old chain’s vibe. All the ideas for the ad campaign were born out of the irreverent nature of the product name, which Buffalo Wild Wings had chosen before WestWayne became its agency, says Bobby Pearce, executive vice president and executive creative director at WestWayne.
In the 30-second TV spot, the chicken tenders are pixilated, so as to obscure their “naked” bodies. The in-store materials quip, “For heaven’s sake, cover them up,” and, “If they had legs, they’d go streaking.” The radio spots feature a female waitress asking her male customers if they’d like to try the new Naked Tenders. Every time she says the word “naked,” they giggle.
“That’s what guys do when they hear the word ‘naked,’ whether they are 30 or 13,” Pearce says.
Making a Scene
According to Pearce, capturing the in-store excitement was part of the secondary objectives for the TV commercials. “I think the setting plays a big part into it. It gives an idea of what we are about and that we do not take ourselves too seriously,” says John Hinz, senior director of marketing at Buffalo Wild Wings.
In addition to Naked Tenders, Buffalo Wild Wings is adding tags to ads in some markets and in-store displays promoting 50-cent “boneless Thursdays.” That promotion emphasizes value, an approach the chain uses instead of couponing or other types of discounting. Even if those point-of-purchase materials aren’t in the same aesthetic vein as those for Naked Tenders or other promotions, Hinz says customers benefit from consistency of message.
“For us, what is the same is the attitude, campaign to campaign, while focusing on a specific product,” he says. “The Buffalo Wild Wings experience permeates through all of those [ad materials], showing people having a good time.”
Buffalo Wild Wings serves both quick-casual and casual-dining meals, allowing customers to order at the bar, at the counter or for takeout. An estimated 17 percent of sales are from takeout orders, according to Standard & Poor’s.
“Our thought was that we needed something that made sure people understand what the product is,” Hinz says. “We do want to make new users aware of us, but the main message was to emphasize what is new here. That is what is exciting.”
Wild and Crazy
As the name suggests, Buffalo Wild Wings is as wild as it wants to be. But behind the bravado is a serious mission. The publicly held company plans to eventually triple its current number of 354 units, an aggressive plan investment analysts such as those at Standard & Poor’s question. In the near term, Buffalo Wild Wings plans to increase the size of the chain by 20 percent in 2006. The company has signed a franchise agreement for 36 restaurants in the New York City area.
Because franchisees play a significant role in the chain’s expansion strategy, their buy-in to the marketing of the new Naked Tenders line was essential. The chain’s national advisory board, which includes six franchisees, OK’d the campaign before it was rolled out. Franchisees, who pay 3 percent of sales into an ad fund, liked that the campaign was clear and consistent with previous marketing efforts, Hinz says.
And for Buffalo Wild Wings’ core audience, getting naked just sounds like a real good time.
“Tastefully Done” Length: 30 seconds
1. Customer 1: Um, excuse me. Is this what we ordered?
Waitress: Yeah, Naked Tenders.
2. Customer 1: But they’re kind of blurry, aren’t they? What are they, digitized or something?
3. Waitress: Actually, they’re pixilated. They are Naked Tenders.
Customer 1: Ohhh. Why don’t you just use those black bars?
4. Waitress: Oh, no, those are just for concealing identity.
5. Customer 1: Right!
6. Customer 2: Whoa!
7. Voice-Over: New Naked Tenders. Juicy, grilled strips of all-white chicken. Only at Buffalo Wild Wings.