What caused the recent curiosity spike of Chuck E. Cheese?
We all remember the crazy viral Ice Bucket Challenge that raised a huge amount of money and brought positive attention to ALS. Recently, Nike’s shoe blowout, Burberry’s runway debacle, and yet another New England Patriots scandal have gone viral and are filling up our feeds. These are obviously negative news stories, but how will they affect the brand overall? Chuck E. Cheese had suffered their own negative press coverage and it remains to be seen: is bad press actually good for brands?
Popular Youtube star Shane Dawson released a conspiracy video introducing the theory that Chuck E. Cheese may be reusing leftover pizza to serve customers. In the video, Shane examines multiple pizza pies and notices oddly shaped slices that don’t quite fit, with some slices smaller than others. He theorizes that Chuck E. Cheese’s employees bring unused pizza back into the kitchen, combine it with other pies, and use extra cheese as a way to blend it all together. Gross!
After posting the video to his over 20 million followers, it went viral — garnering over 22 million views. With unwanted attention on their possibly disgusting food handling practices, it comes as no surprise that Chuck E. Cheese spoke out. In a single post, Chuck E. Cheese attempted to debunk the conspiracy theory.
“The claims made in this video about Chuck E. Cheese’s and our pizza are unequivocally false. No conspiracies here — our pizzas are made to order, and we prepare our dough fresh in restaurant, which means that they’re not always perfectly uniform in shape, but always delicious.”
Was all this press beneficial?
Despite the negative press, the viral video piqued viewers’ curiosity, and they tested the theory themselves. There was a spike in sales and a growing number of customers going out of their way to try Chuck E. Cheese pizza. Although nothing has been proven, as many believe the controversy is false, people are paying attention. In this case, it appears that any publicity, bad or good, can boost a brand’s relevance.
Did this controversy boost sales in the short term but damage the Chuck E. Cheese brand and reputation in the long term? It remains to be seen.
What this means for branding
As marketers, it’s important to present a brand’s strengths to the world. However, when disaster strikes and a scandal elevates a brand’s visibility, it’s not all bad. A primary purpose of branding is recognition and to provide a sturdy foundation for all visible marketing efforts. While a scandal breaks, it can shake the foundation but temporarily boost a brand’s exposure. As long as your foundation is solid, it can withstand the negative press and come out stronger in the end.
We’re not saying that anyone should recycle their pizza, but that any amount of publicity can have a positive effect, at least in the short term.
by Mounir Mulhem