In its heyday (around 1985), Chuck E. Cheese’s became the leader in the family dining and entertainment industry. But the world and Chuck E. Cheese’s have changed a lot since 1985 – just not at the same pace.
The sweet spot for Chuck E. Cheese’s is kids 3 to 8 years old (and their parents) – not the first digital generation, but the second. Born post-9/11, these kids are growing up with technology in the form of iPods, digital cameras, even Facebook. And the competition is fierce. While Chuck E. Cheese’s has no direct national competitors, competition is all around: Wii, Xbox 360, iPad, Pixar movies – highly visual, technology-driven entertainment that kids today expect.
Parents’ perception of Chuck E. Cheese’s isn’t any better. Though Mom and Dad had fun at Chuck E. Cheese’s when they were kids, the thought of any place that had 25 years’ worth of kids running through it without changing wasn’t appealing.
While the whole world was undergoing a digital revolution, Chuck E. Cheese’s merely evolved. And by today’s standards, it is viewed as old-fashioned. So everything we do is aimed at contemporizing the Chuck E. Cheese’s brand and making it cool again.
By leveraging augmented reality technology through the Chuck E.’s Say Cheese! app, we were able to create a new experience inside Chuck E. Cheese’s that was relevant to the kids and parents of today.
The app allows you to take fun, one-of-a-kind photos with the Chuck E. Cheese character inside the store. Markers that activate the app’s augmented reality camera are located throughout every Chuck E. Cheese’s location – on the sides of games, tabletops, etc. – and there are three different versions that provide a unique animation for Chuck E. from each marker. In addition to taking photos, the app allows photos to be easily shared with friends or family through Facebook, Twitter, and email, as well as to the Chuck E. Cheese’s website.
The Chuck E.’s Say Cheese! app is truly a creative solution to a strategic problem. We weren’t looking to create an app, but needed to solve the problem of getting user-generated content to share images of guests making memories in our branded experience and to drive visits.
Through our digital strategy, we knew that moms are increasingly opting to be connected on the go through mobile technology. Social media is extremely common among this group, and sharing photos (especially of their children) online is pervasive Internet behavior. This insight led to our digital vision – great memories are waiting at Chuck E. Cheese’s – that all of our digital activities should support.
One of our key content priorities in the digital space is to share images of guests making memories in our branded experience through our website and social media channels. However, as a children’s entertainment brand, we have to comply with regulations that restrict how images of customers are collected and used. So it was important for us to develop a way to get images of customers, directly from customers, that we could use.
To enhance user-generated content, the app enables and encourages consumers to supply approved images to Chuck E. through social media channels and the website, creates emotional ties to the experience by facilitating photo sharing, and allows users to engage with the new Chuck E. Cheese character. The app is also integrated into the Chuck E. Cheese’s website through a moderation tool that approves images to be posted on the site and social media.
To increase foot traffic, the app intentionally only works inside Chuck E. Cheese’s, so customers have to visit the store to use it.
The Chuck E.’s Say Cheese! app helps us accomplish this key content priority, supports our vision, and helps us achieve our main objectives for the brand, which are to compel kids to request a visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s and to make it easy for moms to say “yes” to their kids requesting that visit.
To ensure that all of our guests could use the app, it was important that we created both iOS and Android versions, for mobile and tablet, at the onset.
To help customers (kids and adults alike) understand how to use the app and explain how it works, we created a fun and engaging how-to video that was incorporated into the Chuck E. Cheese’s website, YouTube page, and Google Play page. It was also played inside the store.
The app itself also includes a step-by-step tutorial that is activated on the app’s first launch and is available in the Support section of the app if it is needed again. Training materials and a training seminar also were created and shared with all employees to ensure that everything was well-executed inside the store.
To support the app, we also created a fully integrated promotional campaign that included television, digital advertising, email, social media, in-store POP, and print, and leveraged our blogger network and public relations efforts to garner additional coverage.
In just eight weeks of promotion, we garnered over 343,000 app downloads, with over 1.45 million engagement sessions. A total of 493,822 photos were saved and 94,195 photos were shared via social media channels. We also garnered over 74 million impressions through our social media and public relations efforts.
Sales during this time period were positive across all regions, and we estimate that the app drove over $1 million in incremental sales.
We also received positive feedback from customers and employees proving our success in the marketplace:
“…my girls had a blast with it. They loved that they could search the store for the different Chuck E.’s to appear, and they really enjoyed watching him dance around and ‘come to life.’ A very entertaining app that adds a fun, new element to the experience.”
“My child loves it and keeps asking me, ‘Can we go?’”
“Coming from an employee, it’s a good way to interact with the kids and get parents more involved.”
To date, the app has over 400,000 downloads, averaging about 10,500 downloads a week now that it is not being promoted.