July 6th, 2012 By Jack Morton
One of my favorite childhood memories had to be whenever somebody had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Lots of great times were had stuffing myself with pizza and ice cream, while playing Jurassic Park with friends and redeeming tickets for Frisbees and other lame-but-awesome-at-the-time prizes. The face of the great youthful enterprise was none other than the mouse himself, Chuck, who could have me pleading with my parents for a visit before even ten seconds of the advertisement had gone by.
Sadly, that face has come and gone. As part of a rebranding campaign to appear more hip and modern to a new generation, Chuck E. Cheese’s has replaced their former mouse mascot with a more “progressive” mouse, wielding a guitar, Chucks, and skinny jeans. They’ve even canned the original voice actor for Chuck and replaced him with the lead singer of rock band “Bowling for Soup”, of all people. Pretty strange that the voice behind “1985” will be emanating from an animated mouse in a new advertising campaign the brand has already begun airing.
I’m not really sure how I feel about the new look (and I’m not sure if it’s even relevant, given that I’m probably not in Chuck E. Cheese’s target audience,) but the move raises a great issue about priorities in rebranding. See, while Chuck. E Cheese’s is investing heavily on this new external image campaign, they’re doing almost nothing about the actual location experiences themselves. As of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to remodel existing stores, add or remove features, or conceive a new menu of food and drink offerings. In short, it doesn’t seem like a new store location brand experience has been considered, let alone implemented, to go hand-in-hand with the new advertising campaigns.
Which brings about the question: should brands seeking to rebrand their image focus on improving their perception or product? Should one even be implemented without the other? Certainly the answer depends considerably on each brand’s unique brand challenges, but what’s the right answer here? In this writer’s humble opinion, product takes precedent over perception. As an advertising professor once said to me: “nothing kills a terrible product faster than great advertising.” The new campaign is nice and all, but it sets unrealistic expectations for any new visitors and could potentially amplify the degree of any subsequent negative experiences. Brands should be focusing on products first and promotion second. After all, if the product is great, the promotion takes care of itself organically.
What are your thoughts on the Chuck E. Cheese rebrand and promotion vs. product? Feel free to tweet me at @Mister_Wang or leave a comment below. Thanks!