Dairy Queen Effort Reaches Beyond the Blizzard to Burgers and Fries

Campaign Aims to Change Behavior of Fans Who Visit Primarily for Dessert

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Dairy Queen is launching an ad campaign next week in hopes that it can turn once-a-month visitors who see it as an ice cream stand into frequent customers who return for burgers, fries and chicken strips.

The chain's new tagline, "Fan food. Not fast food" replaces its previous tagline, "So Good It's RiDQulous," and is expected to run in about a dozen new spots this year, but the tagline and campaign are slated to continue long after that. One spot features what the chain calls a brand anthem that celebrates its fans and their relationship with the brand.

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"Our objective is to reconnect emotionally with our consumers," said Barry Westrum, exec VP-marketing at American Dairy Queen Corp. "Ours is a fierce category, frequency is at a premium, and we really see the opportunity for our business to grow by taking these existing customers that have such strong feelings to get them to come back that much more frequently." He said that 56% of DQ's users are light (one visit per month), yet they only represent 29% of total visits. "If we can get light users to visit one time more per month, it would have a significant impact on our business."

The campaign, launching May 27, is the first created by indie agency Barkley, which picked up the account in December. DQ had previously been with WPP's Grey for 15 years. The campaign will include TV spots, radio, print, in-store digital and social media. Publicis Groupe's Spark, part of Starcom MediaVest Group, handles media buying and planning.

DQ also hopes to capture consumers who are more likely to go to competing chains, such as , Burger King and Wendy's for meals, but are more likely to come to DQ for desserts. Jeff King, CEO at Barkley, said that many of Dairy Queen's customers are heavy fast food customers, but only visit Dairy Queen once a month. "What makes DQ so special is all the treats, [but it's] not considered for everyday usage," he said, adding that consumers sometimes only think of DQ for ice cream and not for meals. "The genesis behind the tagline was to both enter the consideration set [for meals] and differentiate at the same time. By distinguishing fan food, not fast food, it definitely gets us in the consideration set."

Mr. King noted that at the end of the spots for the campaign, imagery of both its fast food and desserts will be included so that consumers are reminded of all the chain's offerings. So, for example, if a spot is for a Blizzard, there will be shots of its food, such as chicken strips, at the end of the spot.

Dairy Queen is the top chain in the ice frozen desserts category by a long shot. It captured about 37.2% market share with $2.4 billion in U.S. systemwide sales last year, down 0.4% from the prior year, according to Technomic. At the end of 2012, it had about 4,465 locations, roughly the same as the prior year. The No. 2 chain in that category is Baskin-Robbins with $509 million in sales, 2,400 units and 7.8% market share.

Compared to McDonald's and other large chains, DQ is not a big ad spender. Last year it spent about $66.8 million on U.S. measured media, according to Kantar Media, whereas McDonald's spent more than $957 million on measured media in the U.S. The company, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, is headquartered in Minneapolis and has more than 6,000 locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and 17 other countries.

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