Why Ruby Tuesday is putting all its chips on social marketing

It’s a no-brainer that brands need to dip a toe in the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But Ruby Tuesday is going further, putting all its chips on social and online video.

When the American restaurant chain tried to shed its casual image in recent years, it lost female diners with young children. To win them back, Ruby Tuesday last summer stopped using TV and radio and started experimenting with social media.

Dave Skena, CMO for Ruby Tuesday, said the chain wants to be more targeted in its messaging and have it be able to keep up with new menu items it has rolled out, and social can help it reach those goals. “We can tighten it or loosen it up based on our marketing goal.”

Ruby Tuesday is still testing social media with a big focus on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Skena sees their paid ad offerings helping the brand become more targeted based on location, gender and sharing behavior. There, Ruby Tuesday is also looking to place more compelling food images and visual content about product ingredients.

Colorful, fresh, crispy, flavorful… okay we have to stop so we can eat this Carolina Chicken Salad.

A photo posted by RubyTuesday (@rubytuesday) on

Ruby Tuesday is also putting a big focus on video because of its storytelling ability. The chain is testing pre-roll video ads on Hulu, short, product-based videos on Facebook and Instagram as well as emotional, narrative clips on YouTube.

In an example of the latter, to promote its new Garden Bar, Ruby Tuesday is testing a three-minute video on Facebook and YouTube called “Shy Girl.” In the video, a girl is struggling to make friends at school. But when she and her family to go Ruby Tuesday, she finally makes friends with a schoolmate at the chain’s salad bar, Garden Bar.

When restaurant chains like Denny’s and Olive Garden are still running TV spots, switching to 100 percent social and online video is a big move for Ruby Tuesday. Skena thinks that those brands are geographically dispersed, so a national cable buy could make sense for them. Ruby Tuesday skews East Coast, so social marketing may be more cost-efficient for the brand than TV.

Social has its challenges, though. One is the difficulty getting direct feedback.

“Our followers like, share and leave comments like ‘It’s cool!’ or ‘I love it!’ But we want more responses,” he said.

Therefore, while Ruby Tuesday measures how its social ads are performing by looking at cost and engagement, the brand pays much attention to comments that a post receives.

For that reason, Skena is holding back on Snapchat and Periscope. “We cannot clearly link them back to our consumer behavior,” he said. “We allocate a very small budget to Snapchat and Periscope at the moment, but over time, we hope to test them and get some results.”

As the marketing landscape changes, Skena believes that Ruby Tuesday needs to take calculated risks.

“We want to give social some time to see if it can really move the needle,” he said. “What I worry about is not if our competitors are on TV. I worry about if our consumers are truly engaged. The rest can take care of itself.”

As of June 2, 2015, Ruby Tuesday’s advertising expense was $17.5 million, according to the company’s annual report.