Buffalo Wild Wings is beginning to roar back thanks to some blunt talk from its new agency that led to a revamped marketing approach. Visits to its restaurants are now on the rise, says Chief Marketing Officer Seth Freeman, which marks a reversal from a couple of years ago when same-store sales and visits were declining.
Buffalo Wild Wings was gobbled up by Arby’s parent company Inspire Brands in February 2018 and six months later Seth Freeman joined as its chief marketing officer. He soon hired new agencies including The Martin Agency on creative.
“They were so good to help us really find our voice and find our rhythm,” Freeman told Ad Age on the sidelines of the Association of National Advertisers’ “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando this month. “The brand had been through so many ups and downs. And as we were trying to re-establish ourselves, re-establish our credibility, we went through an extensive agency search.”
Buffalo Wild Wings picked The Martin Agency primarily because it told the truth, says Freeman. “They called our baby ugly and there was something to that,” he told Ad Age.
And the work is working. The football-focused campaign that began running in August “is working out well for us in terms of driving traffic,” Freeman told Ad Age.
Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency, was blunt in her assessment of the brand when the agency was pitching for the business, recalling “they had let the brand fall apart,” she said during a presentation with Freeman at the ANA. “We thought if they don’t want candor in their agency then we won’t advance.”
Now, Buffalo Wild Wings and The Martin Agency are in sync. “We have a client that cares about creative as much as we do,” said Cavallo. “And I would like to say that’s common but it’s rare.”
While the chain’s fresh marketing from The Martin Agency includes a “roar” as a tagline, buffalo don’t actually roar, as Freeman and Cavallo conceded during their presentation. “We thought it was guttural and raw and really was kind of the feeling of what wild meant," Cavallo said.
Along with campaigns from The Martin Agency, B-Dubs is working on other ways to boost the brand in the minds of sports fans. In September, it announced a multi-year partnership with MGM related to sports betting. That effort includes "Picks and Props," a free-to-play mobile game, a sports-betting test in New Jersey, and plans to open Buffalo Wild Wings within MGM properties, such as one at Mandalay Bay expected to open in 2020.
Hear more from Freeman on the agency selection process and the brand’s agency model in the video above.