Samuelson Communications » Outback Steakhouse campaign – confusing brand strategy? Samuelson Communications » Outback Steakhouse campaign – confusing brand strategy? Samuelson Communications » Outback Steakhouse campaign – confusing brand strategy?

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Outback Steakhouse campaign – confusing brand strategy?


OK, first things first.  Full disclosure.  I had Vegemite for breakfast this morning.  And when friends from Australia come over to visit and ask what they can bring me, the answer is always Vegemite.  So there’s still some Aussie in me despite having no accent what so all anymore and living in the US for longer than I care to admit to.  And as someone born and raised in Australia I’ve always been annoyed by The Outback Steakhouse shtick.  There’s no Bloomin’ Onions in Australia.  And some of the other menu names are truly cringe-worthy.

Eat at Outback and the troups benefit.  This connects to their brand how?

But I can get past that. I get it, it’s a theme restaurant.  With these things come caricatures and schmaltz. But as a brand strategist, rather than offended Aussie, I don’t get their campaign: Thanks For Giving.  If you order off their Red, White, and Bloomin’ menu before April 5th, they’ll donate money to Operation Homefront, a non- profit providing assistance to US service members and wounded warriors.  They’re promoting it everywhere. You can share your hero story and they will feature it on their website and Facebook page.  When I first saw the ad on TV my reaction was, huh?  It was a complete disconnect for me. Please don’t misunderstand, it’s admirable and commendable to want to support US service men and women, but it’s a confusing brand strategy.

Strong brand = focus + consistency,  including where and how you give 

We all know that a strong brand is one where every touch point with its customer is consistent.  The company knows what it stands for and can communicate it everywhere you come into contact with it. Every aspect of the company should relate to the brand, including where and how you give and to whom you give.

Half Price Books and REI: these giving strategies map to their brands

Half Price Books feels that every child deserves a book of their own so hosts book drives to benefit children who might not otherwise have access to books.


Driving home last night I heard an ad on the radio for Half Price Books promoting their Half Pint Library program, a book drive hosted each year to collect and distribute children’s books to those in need.  That made total sense and made me smile. 

REI has a strong committment to environmental stewardship

REI is another great example.  On their website they spell it out: “REI’s passion for the outdoors runs deep. Our core purpose is to inspire, educate and outfit people for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”    So they in invest in outdoor recreation programs and stewardship projects,  and dedicate a portion of their operating profits to help protect and restore the environment, increase access to outdoor activities, and encourage involvement in responsible outdoor recreation.  Now that’s on brand giving.  And something that resonates with their customers.

Yes, Outback is a US-based chain so I’m not suggesting they should be giving to Australian charities in order to be on brand.  But perhaps something more closely related to food – feeding the hungry or scholarships for returning veterans to culinary arts or hospitality management programs –would be better.

There are many who will disagree with me as it’s hard to find fault with a company that’s doing something as patriotic as supporting our troups.  And maybe as one of my friends suggested, the demographic that eats at Outbacks will really respond to the initiative.  And what’s not to like about giving money to such a great cause?

Confused, noble or somewhere in between?

What do you think? Is the Thanks for Giving campaign a noble patriotic effort so doesn’t matter that it’s not tied directly to the brand?  Or do you get the connection to the brand where this cranky Aussie doesn’t?   Watch the video and let me know.

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Filed under: Branding