Now I work in advertising and have produced too many campaigns to count or name over my time in the industry. But it’s always interesting to sit on the other side of the table and see if what is really being advertised is in fact reality.
The brand I going to concentrate on in this post is Red Lobster. For those of you who don’t know Red Lobster, it is essentially what would be described as a global Sea Food Casual dining chain with over 705 locations worldwide. It is very successful and to be honest you can’t fault the advertising, and therefore the reason behind the post.
Now I have travelled a lot and eaten in many different casual restaurant chains like the Red Lobster, Outback, Chilies, Olive Garden, TGI etc, I know classy! But when you travel on business you can eat a lot alone and places like this offer different food at reasonable prices and it means you are not stuck in the hotel room or a fast food joint. So I admit I do look out for the ads to see what they have on, Lobster Fest, Steak season etc.
If you like seafood and you see the Red Lobster advertising it does sell it well to you, it’s colorful, well shot, energetic and themed to drive you in for a specific season e.g. crab season.
But does this tell the whole story? Shooting food is difficult and preparing food for advertising is a unique task (believe me I used to produce a weekly food magazine for a major grocery chain so I know!) Proof in point is higher end restaurants have now started asking customers to sop taking pictures and placing them on Instagram as the images do not represent the dish well enough! However in my eyes, Red Lobster does it well. Perhaps too well.
When you see a commercial and buy into it you expect it to be delivered at the actual brand experience, so, you would not want to see a commercial advertising a toy for say $5.99 and you go to the store and its $10.99.
Advertising food is the same, you see this beautifully prepared seafood, lots of butter for the lobster, the plate clean and stacked full of delicious sea food so you decide to pay them a visit. This time it was at the outlet in Sebring, Florida. We were with my sister’s family and my wife and I had a craving for seafood, but my sister was adamant she would never go to Red Lobster again as her last experience was bloody awful.
After some brotherly persuasion she agreed and in we went, after all what could go wrong? There was about a 10 minute wait for the table which I can never understand as when we were shown the table the place was about 10% full.
We ordered drinks and then they came back for the food order. Post this another table to the left came in with about 6 people and ordered after us. The drinks arrived and we waited and waited, food actually turned up to the table that had arrived after us.
My sister called the waiter over and enquired about the food, he went off to check. Another lady came back to apologize, it seems our order had not even been placed with the kitchen, so we had to reorder as she was now looking after us and promised all would be OK. By know it had been over an hr.
Another 30 minutes went by and we enquired again, the manager came over to apologize as it seemed this lady had mucked up as well. She offered us free drinks while we waited, which was appreciated. Another 30 minutes plus and the food finally started to come out, and placed in front of us, much to the relief of the children However to our dismay, we were now still about three dishes short, the manager came over and said to the waitress just bring out whatever they have. In the end not only did we not end up with the incorrect dished but too many as they literally just brought out whatever was prepared at that time. (We were the only table now that needed food). So two servers and the manager and still the wrong dishes!
Now let’s put every else aside and remind ourselves the fact we went to Red Lobster was the promise of delicious looking sea food like the commercial, so did the food look like that once it finally arrived. In a nutshell no, I think a McDonalds would have been better presented and closer to their commercials. So the promise of delicious seafood never materialized in reality and I am sure my sister now had a knowing smirk saying; told you so!
Not only this, just when we thought it could not get worse, they literally started cleaning up the restaurant around us, with a girl moving our legs to hoover under the table! When we asked to stop she said I need to finish to get out of here!
And this is the point, we went there on the brand promise of great seafood that looked as delicious as the commercials, the reality was not only poor food poorly presented but poor service. To give credit the manager they did not charge us and offered coupons as well, which we did not accept as Red Lobster unfortunately is no longer on the shopping list of casual dining for us.
So brands, please let’s not oversell, in marketing we are making promises to consumers that the end product needs to deliver. By over promising and under delivering all we are doing is turning customers into non customers.
Now it’s off to the Outback for dinner to see if they live up the hype, let’s hope I don’t need to write about that.
Please feel free to share the post and I would love to hear about any similar experiences you have had.
My name is Daymonde and I am a multiple award winning international marketer. After graduating in Applied Economics, I started my career In London working in Market Research. Graduating during the financial crash meant it was not the best degree to have but my passion was always marketing and advertising so I looked to move into that field.