After years of sticking to a strict no-ad diet, Five Guys is warming up to digital marketing. Since its creation in 1986, the Obama-approved burger chain made a name for itself through fries and friendliness. For the brand, which has always bet on simple over superficial, here’s what the strategy flip could mean.
In the past, Five Guys has passed on paid ads, food photography, and social media. However, recent years have seen it reaching for digital tools. The chain has made sure to secure strong SEO with brand site listings that include restaurant locators and options for online meal ordering. Still, it always lacked visual appeal, especially on its menu pages and social channels.
One way Five Guys hopes to change this is by upping its grid game, a tactic that has worked for relative newcomer Shake Shack. Despite the latter’s relatively small size, Shake Shack earns top-five Instagram engagement by frequently posting user-submitted food and drink photos, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants.
Because Five Guys burgers are known for being on the sloppy side, capturing an enticing shot can be a challenge, but CEO Molly Catalano points out that Instagram users have managed to post photos that look both real and appetizing—a testament to the benefit of user-generated content—and seem much more authentic than sponsored posts. The brand now features user-generated content as a primary part of its page. In this way, it can increase exposure and interactions without the risk of coming across as inauthentic.
Along with the expectation of picture-perfect social channels, Five Guys faces another pressure: non-burger restaurants are now adding burgers to their menus. Most notably, IHOP did so in a marketing move that swept social media. To keep distinguishing itself in the evolving environment, it’s clear that Five Guys will need more than juicy burgers to stay afloat.