Swiss Chalet uses storytelling to promote its Festive Special

Who: Swiss Chalet and Upstream, with media from Genuine Retail Media.

What: “One to Go,” a national campaign promoting the casual dining chain’s annual Festive Special.

When & Where: The campaign debuted Nov. 1, with a strategy built around TV and online, complemented by paid social. It’s highlighted by a :60 anthem spot that will debut during this weekend’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.  There is also a :30 and a retail focused 15-second cutdown promoting a new “Everyone’s a winner” scratch card with a $25,000 grand prize.

Why: It’s about generating awareness for the Festive Special, with a specific goal of increasing year-over-year sales, says Swiss Chalet’s senior director of marketing, Ally Tosello.

Like Tim Hortons’ “Roll Up the Rim,” the Festive Special is Swiss Chalet’s signature promotion, running for more than 25 years. “It is the most recognizable and ownable proposition that Swiss Chalet has, and it’s one of those signature promotions that is loved by franchisees and guests,” says Tosello.

Swiss Chalet’s 230 locations enjoy their best performance during the Festive Special period, says Tosello, with the week prior to Christmas consistently number one in terms of system-wide sales.

“It really speaks to the program’s resonance with the holiday season,” she says, noting that during the promotion period, up to 40% of guests at some Swiss Chalet locations—particularly those in smaller towns and Atlantic Canada— will order the Festive Special on any given night.

How: While Swiss Chalet continues to rely on tactical marketing to drive awareness of the Festive Special, this year’s marketing features a stronger emphasis on storytelling. “One to Go,” is based on one of the more than 1,500 customer submissions it received on its Come Home to Swiss microsite, created in celebration of its 65th anniversary.

It follows a family’s interactions with an office security guard, culminating with a young girl bringing him a Festive Special, accompanied by the tagline “Taste it once. Love it forever.”

“It’s a time of year [marked by] sharing and goodwill, so that’s what we were looking to bring out in the storyline,” says Upstream founder Paul Wales, who wrote and directed the spot which was shot at one of Swiss Chalet’s newly renovated locations in Vaughan, Ont. “There’s a whole bunch of emotional space that you can mine with something like this.”

Who’s the target: The Festive Special has broad appeal, says Tosello, meaning the campaign is speaking to multiple constituencies. Swiss Chalet’s primary target is older families (a reflection of its 65-year history), although its customers also include millennial families and younger customers buying for take-out or delivery.

Anything new this year?: Swiss Chalet has partnered with chocolate maker Lindt for its Festive Special for about a decade (those of a certain vintage might remember that Toblerone used to be the sweet treat).

This year’s version of the meal features a new addition: Three collectible boxes, each depicting a festive scene like an old-timey chocolate shop or a winter parade.

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And we quote: “The objective with this creative was to make it feel very genuine. It’s not as edited, brightly lit and with perfectly stylistic food that has that studio feel. It’s intended as a look through the lens of what a real moment might be.” — Ally Tosello, senior director of marketing, Swiss Chalet

Chris Powell