A campaign that shows a lot of Moxies

“And then Covid happened” has become something of a common refrain when marketers talk about how their carefully considered, long-term business plans were completely upended in March 2020.

But the pandemic also served as something of a catalyst for many companies, forcing them to take a harder look at their brand and explore how best to take it forward in a new, uncertain era.

That has been particularly true in the restaurant sector, where dining chains, and particularly those that relied heavily on the dine-in experience, are discovering that consumers’ attitudes have changed, perhaps irrevocably, after two years of mostly eating at home.

While some have theorized that the restaurant industry may never fully recover from the pandemic, many chains are betting that consumers are keen to return, albeit with heightened expectations for what the in-person dining experience should be.

Among those is the Canadian chain Moxies, which this week unveiled a rebrand and extensive ad campaign that director of brand and marketing Cydney Shapiro said marks an attempt by the 36-year-old brand to move slightly more upmarket.

The rebrand includes dropping “Bar & Grill” from the name, and also eliminates the curious apostrophe (just who was Moxie anyway?) that served no discernible purpose. “We think that Moxies without the apostrophe is cleaner, fresher and more modern,” said Shapiro. “We wanted to make a stand [saying] that things have changed.”

In addition to a new website and an updated interior for its restaurants, there are also more tangible updates—including an emphasis on a refreshed food and beverage program, all with an eye towards attracting what Shapiro characterized as a “younger, fresher generation.”

The company has also partnered with the Canadian fashion brand Aritzia, a particular favourite of the young women that are among Moxies’ target audience, on new “elevated” uniforms that are being piloted at its Langley, B.C. location in advance of a rollout to its 55 locations across North America next year.

“It was evident to us that we needed to modernize Moxies,” said Shapiro, who joined the company in May 2021 after spending the previous five years in a similar role with Joey Restaurant Group. “A lot of people have this nostalgia around their experience at Moxies 10 or 20-plus years ago.”

Research conducted by Moxies found that while brand awareness was high, intent to visit its restaurants was low. And while the chain scored well on attributes like great service and a great place to go for drinks with friends, it didn’t score as high on the quality of its food.

The goal with the rebrand is to attract a younger clientele, with a bullseye target of people 30 to 45. Shapiro said the brand is also attempting to make inroads among the 18 to 24 demographic, where the chain has traditionally under-indexed.

The goal is to attract people who typically dine out at least twice a week, are happy hour “enthusiasts,” and enjoy late-night bites. “They’re the friends you have that who are eating out all the time and generally give everyone else FOMO,” said Shapiro.

While the new Moxies logo was created by Toronto agency Conflict, the rebrand is being communicated via a national campaign by Full Punch, which was named lead strategic and creative agency for Moxies’ parent company Northland Properties earlier this year.

Called “Delicious is in the Details,” the platform lends itself to possible future “detail”-oriented approaches, such as “Hospitality is in the Details” or “Design is in the Details,” said Shapiro. “We thought it had some good legs for us to continue using in other campaigns down the road.”

The current wave of advertising places an emphasis on the care and effort that goes into creating Moxies’ dishes. It was shaped in part by current TikTok trends that show food being made and  showing how and people enjoying the quality of every bite, she said.

The goal is to achieve lift among people who associate Moxies with both high-quality food and “craveable” menu items. “We feel really good about this campaign and achieving the outcome that we’re looking for,” said Shapiro.

The accompanying media buy from MediaCom includes TV, social, and extensive out-of-home. “It’s a significant investment for Moxies,” said Shapiro. “We see it as being really important for driving awareness around our food program.”

Chris Powell