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Church's Chicken, Coca-Cola use SMS to connect with urban youth

Church's Chicken and Coca-Cola have launched interactive promotional initiatives that target mature, multicultural, urban young-adults with food, video games and mobile technology.

The fast-food brand is in collaboration with Coca-Cola on a promotion called "Be Heard" that uses mobile technology to engage and interact with a younger segment of the brands' target audience. Church's Chicken and Coca-Cola set their sights on a mobile campaign that leverages the power of text messaging.

"Texting is an important and popular means of communication for our customers, especially among our younger audience," said Farnaz Wallace, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Church's Chicken, Atlanta. "Therefore, we wanted to leverage the urban youth's passion points cost-effectively and with marketing precision.

"By doing this, we hope to make our brand a more relevant part of their fast-paced daily lives and excite them about our promotions and value-driven messaging," she said.

The Be Heard promotion, slated for implementation early this year, lets customers text in a keyword to a short code after answering four questions about their recent Church's in-store visit.

Customers can to text keyword "Good" to short code 30123 in order to enter the sweepstakes.

Once the text message is submitted, customers instantly receive a bounce-back coupon with various offers, including $1 off any value combo meal and a free order of Bombers with any value combo purchase at regular menu price.

The promotion gives customers an opportunity to win $1,000 in cash to be awarded on a weekly basis for the nine-week promotion, and a Be Heard poster featuring artwork by Kadir Nelson and an inspirational poem by R&B artist Musiq Soulchild.

The urban youth market is the second largest and fastest growing segment nationwide and one of Church's core customers.

The campaign is meant to supplement long-term brand-building and recognition within this important group.

"Since Church's has limited broadcast media dollars in certain markets, one of our biggest challenges is that the only way many customers find out about a promotion is when they get to a store," Ms. Wallace said. "To overcome this challenge, we are hoping to bring awareness to our promotions through other means such as mobile marketing.

"Our goal is to find a place ahead of the curve by exploring newer means of communications to target the young, multicultural segment," she said. "We may find that it includes Twitter or some social media channel."

Church's Chicken has also partnered with Surge, a studio and publishing label created by Namco Bandai Games America Inc., for the release of Afro Samurai, an animated video game fusing hip-hop overtones with Japanese-inspired themes.

Afro Samurai, which is based on the acclaimed animated series, has a large cult-following.

The video game has already gone gold and was officially released yesterday throughout North America for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Sony's PlayStation 3 entertainment system.

Church's Chicken, as the exclusive partner for the quick-service restaurant category, will promote the game with the support of national TV and radio advertising on urban young-adult channels and outlets in addition to in-store merchandising.

The brand has launched an Afro Samurai sweepstakes to capitalize on the heavy Namco advertising campaign breaking behind the video game launch in late January. The goal is to drive traffic into Church's Chicken restaurants.

For the promotion, Church's customers will have the chance to win the $7,500 grand prize, as well as other prizes including a customized Afro Samurai iPod MP3 player, a copy of the game and a gaming console.

Afro Samurai is not the brand's first foray into advergaming.

The brand last year sponsored Soulcalibur IV, yielding approximately 17,300 online sweepstakes entries. Nearly 20 percent of those entries actively requested to receive coupons and promotional information from Church's.

The Soulcalibur IV promotion also increased traffic to Church's official Web site by an average of 30 percent and supplemented an increase in the brand's value combo sales.

Church's believes that gamers are an emerging loyal fan base akin to those of traditional sports such as football or basketball.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, 65 percent of American households play computer or video games.

While Church's marketing recipe for success is going digital in 2009, the chicken chain will still continue to focus on new product introductions and marketing initiatives that are up-to-date with consumer trends.

Founded in San Antonio, TX, in 1952, Church's Chicken is a leading quick-service chicken brands, serving chicken and tenders with sides such as biscuits.

As of November, the Church's system consisted of more than 1,600 locations in 20 countries. System-wide sales crossed $1 billion.

"There are only a few brands that communicate through cutting-edge media platforms such as advergaming and text messaging," Ms. Wallace said.

"Partnering with Surge and Coca-Cola, two of the biggest gamer marketers in the industry, just made sense and provides a novel and innovative way to engage our customers in a non-traditional and fun way," she said.

"The urban youth media mix is unique and technology-driven. We know that Church's, alongside Coca-Cola and Surge, will successfully connect while continuing to stay relevant."