Carl Allen says his team sometimes feel like they’re MacGruber.

MacGruber is a Saturday Night Live character based on MacGyver who tries to save the world with ordinary household objects and usually fails in a series of explosions. His team’s seemingly impossible task: Tell Red Lobster’s sourcing story as a tie in with their Crab Fest event in a way that’s engaging, natural, and credible.

In his presentation at our Member Meeting in New York, member and Red Lobster Digital Brand Manager Carl explains how they did it on a tight budget with repurposed content and renewed media relationships.

Carl Allen - Red Lobster

First, they explored expensive ideas.

Their agency pitched a “sea-to-table” campaign starting with the crab in the wild. They’d feature the crab fisherman bringing them in and film it on a boat in Alaska. And while the idea was strong, Carl says it wasn’t good enough.

“It was missing the engagement and credibility. It was really expensive and not in our budget,” he says. Instead, he looked to repurpose some existing assets and relationships.

“Sometimes when you’re telling your brand story, people think you’re making it up.”

One of Red Lobster’s content pillars is the story of their seafood procurement — one that conveys their strong quality standards and attention to detail. They call that content pillar “Guardians of the Sea.”

To tell their Guardians of the Sea story in a way that seemed credible, they enlisted Captain Sig Hansen of the Northwestern, a celebrity from “The Deadliest Catch” and a part of Red Lobster’s supply chain. For each week of Crab Fest, fans could watch their videos about sourcing and answer questions to be entered in a contest to meet Captain Sig aboard the Northwestern.

Turns out, Red Lobster already had a partnership with the show and during a TV commercial shoot, had built a personal relationship with Captain Sig himself.

Red Lobster Instagram

No trip to Alaska required.

With a few phone calls, Carl’s team found a way to repurpose photography and video shot by the Discovery Channel. With the remaining budget, they shot quick interviews with Captain Sig about his part in the Red Lobster supply chain.

Red Lobster Facebook 2

Red Lobster’s videos were then shared as a branded content piece from “The Deadliest Catch,” reaching social fans for both the show and the restaurant.

To feature the different species of crabs, they skipped another expensive photo shoot. Instead, they contacted the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to use their content for Instagram and Facebook Carousel ads.

Red Lobster Facebook

The results: Contest entries were four times that of Lobster Fest.

During Crab Fest, they also saw a two-percent lift in social engagement in the two minutes following their TV spots, according to a report by 4C.

Qualitatively, Carl says his team also experienced more positive sentiment that usual from their fans. “We took that message that could have been boring, and it turns out they were really engaged with it.” And they did it all without taking on an expensive campaign.

Red Lobster Slide

“If we had not had a strong brief, we may have just bought what the agency told us right away,” he says. “You can’t be afraid to say no. You’re a great brand, we’re all a part of really big brands, and we can have a big impact with our agency partners and in the real world.”

Watch Carl’s full presentation at our Member Meeting in New York here. Carl’s been a member of since 2016. Follow him on Twitter.

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