Continue to Site

    The Revitalization of Krystal is Underway

  • A fresh marketing campaign taps into the social nature of the brand.

    Krystal
    Pimento Cheese Bites are part of the launch. Expect to see more "playfully Southern" menu items in the future.

    When former McAlister’s Deli president Paul Macaluso joined Krystal as CEO in April, one of his first targets was a straightforward, but complex one: “It’s about reinvigorating the relevance of the brand,” he said at the time.

    That might be simple elsewhere; it’s a loaded challenge at Krystal, a brand founded in 1932 that appreciates near-cult-like status in some of the markets it operates. But part of the challenge with a legacy brand is the complacency with exposure. Macaluso said Krystal was in danger of becoming wallpaper to once-loyal customers, and overlooked by new ones. His goal was to get people talking about the 364-unit brand again, which has seen sales drop more than 6 percent in the past two years. The answer: “Breakthrough creative that gets people’s attention,” he said.

    READ MORE: Paul Macaluso’s plan to reinvigorate Krystal.

    Krystal partnered with The Tombras Group, famous for its social media work with MoonPie, which often spars with Wendy’s on Twitter, to launch an unconventional advertising campaign “that invigorates the venerable burger brand with an appeal to millennials and a nod to pop culture.”

    It’s being directed by new chief marketing officer Dominic Losacco, who served as vice president of global marketing at Moe’s Southwest Grill before joining Krystal in May. Before, Losacco worked with McDonald’s, Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, and Sonic Drive-In. There is a familiarity and synergy there for Macaluso. He got his start with FOCUS Brands (the operating company of Moe’s, McAlister’s, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, and Cinnabon) five years ago as vice president of marketing at Moe’s. Macaluso worked his way into a position as senior vice president of brand marketing strategy for all six brands before being promoted to McAlister’s president in December 2016.

    Krystal

    Dominic Losacco served as vice president of global marketing at Moe’s Southwest Grill before joining Krystal in May.

    Losacco’s first campaign invites customers to “Live A Little,” with its food and sharable experiences. Known as the #SquareTalk campaign (an ode to the square burgers), it is an integrated multi-channel approach with a heavy digital and social emphasis “designed to win back lapsed customers and to increase comp sales.”

    “We’re a challenger brand. We can be edgy. We can be fun. We can be irreverent. And those things haven’t really been the case,” Macaluso said in April.

    That’s definitely the reality with this campaign.

    “'Live A Little’ is a mindset and is at the very core of why people visit Krystal,” Losacco said in a statement. “#SquareTalk is more than a play on words about our iconic square burgers. It means Krystal gives it to you square and simple in a way that other [quick-serves] can’t.”

    Collaborating with Tombras, Losacco is using a unique approach to tie digital advertising to the bottom line on behalf of Krystal, the company said. This campaign incorporates paid social using a beta program and partnerships with third-party vendors to track every single digital tactic deployed and the resulting real-time walk-in business.

    “We understand how to leverage brand equity in a way that honors Krystal’s unique appeal while modernizing the brand voice and messaging,” added Dooley Tombras, president of The Tombras Group.

    Krystal launched Pimento Cheese Bites and Frozen Lemonhead Slushies with the campaign. The limited-time menu times are part of Krystal’s “playfully Southern” recipes menu strategy intended to refresh its offerings and promote its sharable nature.

    Expect to see more social-focused campaigns in the future. “There’s something inherently social about this brand. The big party packs. The late-night business that we already do extremely well. This brand lends itself to social gatherings, and it doesn’t really play a big part today in social media. We definitely have an opportunity there,” Macaluso said earlier.