Tony Roma's Customer EngagementWithout effective brand messaging, marketing efforts simply fall flat. Whether it’s announcing new products, promoting upcoming specials, or conveying a brand’s personality, messaging is the link between marketing campaigns and their intended targets. In the case of Tony Roma’s, messaging and communication has been a key component in refreshing the brand.

Attendees to the 2015 Engagement and Experience Expo heard presentations from Loyalty360 CX Award finalists, including Tony Roma’s, about how they’ve delivered effective messaging to consumers.

The challenge faced by Tony Roma’s was best described by Jim Rogers, CMO of parent company RomaCorp.

 “We’ve got an iconic brand that has pretty good awareness,” Rogers said. “But we’ve got a lot of people that only talk about old memories of the brand, going with Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, so it’s viewed as an aging brand in a lot of ways.”

In an effort to shed this reputation of a bygone brand name, the company has refocused its marketing and reenergized its image in hopes of reaching a younger audience.

When designing a new brand image, the company needed to take a step back and identify the strongest aspects of the Tony Roma’s brand. The answer, Rogers told the audience, quickly became clear.Tony Roma's Social Media

“When we post a picture of our ribs on social media, we see it gets as much as 20 times the likes and shares, compared to when we post pictures of things like desserts or steaks,” said Rogers. “What we’ve learned it that eating ribs is an experience; customers bite into the ribs, they get sauce all over, and it’s a lot of fun.”

With this in mind, the brand shifted marketing focus onto the fun of eating ribs at Tony Roma’s locations.

The company used a promotion called “Rib Face” to increase customer engagement and showcase the rib-eating experience. Customers were invited to share pictures showing how they enjoy ribs at Tony Roma’s. The best pictures won a year of free ribs, encouraging participation through branded incentives. The goal of this promotion was to build word-of-mouth around the brand to create a more modern perception of the brand.

The Rib Face campaign was a successful endeavor in building engagement across social media platforms and altering the brand’s image. Guest count rose for the first time in five years, thanks to the promotion, and intent to recommend rose by 40% over the duration of the contest. Tony Roma’s stellar rebranding campaign catapulted it to a Silver Award in the Best Brand Messaging and Communication in Customer Experience category at the 2015 Loyalty360 CX Awards.

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