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Following 2016 declines, Buffalo Wild Wings turns to mobile video to engage millennials


By Haley Velasco | Freelance journalist

June 8, 2017 | 5 min read

The same week as its outgoing CEO Sally Smith spoke of difficulty engaging millennials, Buffalo Wild Wings is working with adtech outfit, AdColony, to engage audiences and drive them to their restaurants.

Following declines in 2016, Buffalo Wild Wings turns to mobile video to engage millennials

Following declines in 2016, Buffalo Wild Wings turns to mobile video to engage millennials

Following a tough 2016 — with a 2.4% decline in same-store sales, making it the biggest decline in the past five years — Smith, who will retire from the company before the end of 2017, said Tuesday that the problem isn't the chain itself, but the casual-dining industry, which is not connecting with consumers.

"Casual-dining restaurants face a uniquely challenging market today," Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders on Tuesday.

She noted that changing customer tastes, slowing mall traffic, and declining sports viewership caused the drop in 2017. In conjunction with the decline, the brand — along with its casual-dining counterparts — is looking to reach millennials and are investing in mobile video to do so.

“Since Buffalo Wild Wings is all about ‘Wings. Beer. Sports,’ we look to target and influence sports fans, who are still very much engaged. While there have been some shifts in sports viewing habits, Buffalo Wild Wings is still all about finding ways to celebrate fandom and be the ‘fan’s biggest fan,” said Kaitlyn McInnis, media director, digital, Horizon Media, Buffalo Wild Wings’ agency.

As an increasingly important part of brand strategy, smartphones and millennial consumption on second screens is becoming more and more important. According to Nielsen, 98% of millennials aged 18-24 own smartphones. Millennials aged 25-34 are right behind them, with a 97% ownership rate, followed by Gen Xers aged 35-44 at 96%.

“While a small portion of our mobile plan is geared at reaching and connecting with cord-cutters, our main focus in mobile media is to reach our consumers across multiple touch points, mirroring how they naturally navigate in their day-to-day,” McInnis said.

As a part of their strategy, Buffalo Wild Wings turned to AdColony to ramp up the mobile experience. 59% of both Generation Z and millennials prefer to use their smartphone to consume video programming outside of their home, according to Nielsen. Through this partnership, Buffalo Wild Wings was targeting adults 18-49, mainly males, with household incomes that are above average, according to AdColony.

“Outside of just the Buffalo Wild Wings campaign, mobile video is emerging as an incredibly important advertising channel for brands of nearly all sizes and verticals,” said Andrew Dubatowka, VP of product marketing, AdColony.

“Part of it is to reach people who are engaging with less TV content, but there is also an opportunity to supplement TV advertising. Buffalo Wild Wings' campaign was centered around their 'Foodoo doll' which is a spot that is currently running on TV right now. Creating a separate experience on mobile allowed them to leverage the great video content they already built, but add in an immersive, interactive element, that not only brings the consumer closer to the ad, but also drives people to their loyalty program in a way that isn't possible with traditional TV advertising.”

With AdColony’s Aurora HD Video technology, they created an interactive video with the brand’s "Foodoo" doll. Using the technology, the doll will come out of the screen over a video and consumers use their fingers to "catch" the doll. Once the screen is swiped, wing sauce fingerprints are displayed where the viewer touched the smartphone.

“Breaking through the clutter and finding ways to have a deeper connection and experience with our consumer, while also educating them on our loyalty efforts was a top priority,” McInnis said.

AdColony is also working with Disney around the recent release of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." For that creative, fans went on a "treasure hunt" through a trailer and rewarded with exclusive content from the film. The third partnership was with Genesis Motors around their new line of vehicles.

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