Panera: breaking bread with an entire community

May 28, 2009 MullenLowe

Panera is a brand about warmth and sharing. It’s a brand around which people gather.  It’s a place where people come together.  It only makes sense that its marketing would work the same way. Mullen was tasked by our clients to conceive an ad that captured the essence of Panera. They also wanted an idea that people would share.

We didn’t need to talk about bread, or salads or sandwiches – just capture the brand. The ad, that ran on December 15 in USA Today, was an open letter to all the people in the world who need to “break bread.” Darth Vader & Luke Skywalker; The Mac Guy & The PC Guy; Wall Street Execs & Everyone Else. The list goes on. But the real experience wasn’t the ad, it was the participation that continued on Facebook and Twitter.  Starting on day the ad ran, for the two weeks leading to Christmas, we asked Panera’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers to participate in the break bread conversation.

We posed questions to the community and they responded in force – What couple is missing from our ad? If you could break bread with one person, living or dead, who would it be? What’s your favorite meal memory? On both platforms friends and fans extended the list, offered their suggestions and reacted to one another’s ideas.  Our Twitter conversation grew by 18% over the previous month.  Facebook fan growth increased by 6% while the number of posts jumped by nearly 30%.  But most importantly, that passionate conversation still continues today with our 200,000+ fans on Facebook and 8,000 Twitter followers.  Not bad for two communities only eight months old.