Panera Bread: "What’s Your Panera Favorite?”


Client: Panera Bread
Category: Restaurants, Fast Food, Grocery Stores
Agency: Maxus
Country: United States
Year: 2014


Campaign Summary

In the overcrowded quick service restaurant (QSR) landscape, Panera Bread, the popular chain of bakery-café fast casual restaurants, must constantly fight to be the next meal of choice among potential customers. This increasing competition was coupled with in-store operational challenges that took the focus off of Panera’s core items. The result was a decline in transactions due to lapsed users.

The challenge was clear: Panera needed to reinvigorate its core customer base and bring in new customers to accelerate transactions and shorten the user frequency cycle. Mobile was a key vehicle in Panera’s campaign to engage with consumers who were making quick decisions on where and what to eat on the go. In fact, mobile was the only channel within the company’s entire media plan that allowed Panera to drive awareness and prompt purchases in real time.

Objective and Context

Panera is a popular brand rooted in craft and community. Panera’s campaign objective was to generate a new wave of fans by building off the existing passion for Panera and telling the brand story of how menu items came to be everyone’s favorites.

Campaign success was measured by the following KPIs: positive lifts in visit intent and brand favorability; store finder searches and interaction rates; and social content engagement.

Overall, Panera sought to reach adults age 25-54 with a female skew in the following two groups: New, light and lapsed consumers who hadn’t yet found a crave-able go-to item at Panera, and people who love Panera – consumers who may or may not be Panera loyalists or brand advocates and who had a Panera favorite.

Creative Strategy

Panera developed the creative “What’s Your Panera Favorite?” interactive digital campaign to encourage consumers to vote and engage. From a media perspective, it needed to balance awareness, engagement and drive-to-purchase using both offline and online tactics. To accelerate awareness of the campaign, it needed to use mobile and tablets. Capitalizing on target insights, it used gaming to build visibility.

Panera used local mobile to drive immediacy and prompt purchase of Panera Favorites among all segments. It used a geo-fencing strategy to reach consumers near Panera Bread restaurants, near competitor locations and at target points of interest, such as parks, gyms and transit stations, to drive them to the Panera store locator. Ads were contextually targeted across multiple apps and sites frequented by Panera fans, including Yelp, Foursquare and Waze. Panera also used search targeting to reach consumers actively searching for restaurants to drive in-store transactions.

To harness the passion of fans, it capitalized on the strength of all media channels to deliver Panera’s message to the right consumer. To maximize marketing opportunities, it used high share-of-voice digital sponsorships within high-composition platforms to tell the story of each Panera Favorite. Depending on the time of the year, ads were integrated with other voting environments such as the Oscar ballots on and the March Madness brackets with USA TODAY’s sports section.

To drive involvement across both audiences, Panera used programmatic buying, identifying new, light and lapsed users and delivering Panera’s message wherever and whenever those users consumed content. It also used the MyPanera database of Panera’s most loyal customers to reach look-a-likes. In the display and social space, it used influencer targeting to reach Panera fans, friends of fans and advocates across popular sites and blogs to further drive engagement.

Overall, 15% of the campaign budget went to mobile, an allocation based on competitive data and previous digital and mobile campaign results. After the campaign, Panera planned that mobile would have a higher budget.

To drive awareness of the Favorites campaign, Panera ran within environments frequently used by the target, such as weather and entertainment, and ran sponsorships with mobile gaming partners such as Zynga. This partnership allowed Panera to create a mini-game within popular games such as Words With Friends and What’s the Phrase, as well as a high-impact interstitials in place of a standard ad in natural stops in game play. Other key programs included BlogHer’s rich media unit, which highlighted bloggers’ visits to their local Panera to try their favorite item.

Paid social mobile ads on Facebook and Twitter drove engagement. Panera used a custom #PaneraFav hashtag through all media placements to connect all campaign elements, aid consumers in voting for their favorite item, and capture social media conversations.

Millions of clicks, check-ins and hundreds of thousands of votes show consumers were receptive to the campaign. Engagement increased significantly overall. As a result of the success of Favorites, Panera is continuing to explore mobile gaming and local mobile for future campaigns and capitalize on its strong performance. More importantly, Panera now truly understands the power of mobile and is looking to significantly increase mobile spending going forward.


Below are the results of the campaign:

  • The campaign delivered over 73 million mobile impressions, surpassing the goal by 66%.
  • More than 400,000 people voted for their Panera Favorite.
  • Over four million consumers checked in to a Panera Bread with Foursquare, surpassing campaign goals.
  • The local-mobile Waze program successfully navigated consumers to their nearest Panera, resulting in an 82% navigation rate (4% higher than Waze’s benchmark).
  • Over 2.1 million clicks were delivered to Panera’s mobile site; 61% of clicks were generated from the custom interstitial.
  • 83% of consumers who were served a Panera ad played the custom game resulting in a 93% game completion rate (surpassing Celtra and Sizmek benchmarks).
  • Benchmarks for game play were surpassed by +341%, for game completion by +133% and for time spent by +137%.
  • BlogHer’s custom content unit delivered clickthrough rates that surpassed benchmarks.
  • Paid social ads on Facebook and Twitter surpassed QSR category and campaign benchmarks: the Facebook page post-engagement rate beat the benchmark by +408%, and the Promoted Tweet engagement rate on the QSR category benchmark on Twitter was +840%.


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