When the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel asked Wisconsin native and “MasterChef” contestant Emily Hallock what her “cheesehead craving” is, she replied, “It’s Culver’s Cheese Curds every time I get up to Wisconsin. Always.”
Her response sparked a big idea. Culver’s, a long-term partner of Hiebing’s, was looking for ways to augment National Cheese Curd Day, a holiday we helped them create in 2015. Emily’s proclamation of her love for Culver’s provided the perfect starting point.
Emily left “MasterChef” at the end of August, so we had a small window to develop and execute a plan leading up to National Cheese Curd Day on Oct. 15. Knowing that Emily is comfortable with a cooking competition format, we decided to host our own: The Cheese Curd Challenge.
The event would leverage Emily’s celebrity status to amplify National Cheese Curd Day in a way that could help raise awareness of Culver’s Wisconsin Cheese Curds.
A Target-Led Event Strategy Guarantees a Remarkable Experience
The Cheese Curd Challenge took place at Eataly Chicago, a venue that regularly holds cooking classes and foodie events. The competition pitted Emily against Quinn Adkins, Culver’s director of menu development, as they tried to create the perfect sauce to accompany Culver’s Wisconsin Cheese Curds.
During every step of planning the event, we kept Culver’s target in mind, ensuring an authentic connection with the brand. In creating the guest list, we invited family-friendly influencers who would resonate with the target. We used social media and Culver’s email list to reach out to Chicago-area “curd nerds” (Culver’s guests who love cheese curds), and asked them to join us.
The schedule for the event incorporated many opportunities for our guests to get involved and interact with Culver’s brand. They were able to taste the sauces and vote on their favorites. There was a cheese curd-themed photo booth that lent itself to capturing shareworthy snapshots of the event. And each invitee was allowed a limited number of guests, giving the event a more exclusive feel.
Wanting to keep the focus of the event on Culver’s cheese curds, we strategized ways to weave them into the event space. Not only did we create a Culver’s Cheese Curd Challenge screen to display on the room’s television monitors, but we also created table tents with cheese curd facts and printed cheese-curd themed schedules to help manage guests’ expectations for the event. There would be no doubt that the day was all about cheese curds!
Cheese Curd Challenge Provides Unique Brand Experience for Culver’s Guests
On Oct. 8, over 60 guests had a blast watching Quinn and Emily show off their cooking skills. Everyone sampled the sauces, the judges deliberated, and Quinn was crowned the winner.
Not only was the event a hit with those in attendance, it was a success on social media as well. Influencers shared photos and videos on their Instagram Stories during the event and then posted on their blogs and social media profiles again on National Cheese Curd Day, pulling in more than 2 million total impressions.
Even non-influencer guests shared the event on their social media profiles, leading to even more engagement. We created a video of the event and shared it on Culver’s website, Facebook and Twitter to further create excitement about curds and the brand behind Emily’s “cheesehead craving.”
While these efforts raised awareness of Culver’s Wisconsin Cheese Curds and National Cheese Curd Day, it more importantly helped drive one of the biggest curd sales days in Culver’s history!
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