In 2019, a college student created a spoof Facebook event to storm Area 51—a secretive U.S. Government Installation in the Nevada desert. What began as a light-hearted post, soon captured the intrigue and interest of audiences all over the world, going viral online and generating widespread media coverage. Before long, the joke had morphed into a real, music-themed weekend against the backdrop of Rachel, NV (the closest town to Area 51). Unbelievably, nearly two million Internet users RSVP'd to attend.
Arby’s—a brand known for meat-focused offerings noticed that “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” was resonating strongly amongst millennials (its core customer audience), so they decided to get in on the action. They challenged Edelman to maximize on this social opportunity and create an authentic brand moment that would resonate with their target audience and cement their brand relevance among the group.
With thousands of millennials trekking out into the desert to find fun, it was inevitable they would need sustenance at some point, so we decided to support them in their quirky and fulfilled quest to “Storm Area 51” by doing what Arby’s does best...feeding them!
STRATEGY & EXECUTION
Arby's brand growth strategy is focussed on young consumers, so they want to show up authentically in spaces that appeal to young people.
With that in mind, we picked up Arby’s Roadside Meathouse and set up camp in the desert, bringing with us enough free meats to feed 1,500+ hungry stormers and plenty of themed merchandise to ensure the brand participation could become part of the zeitgeist for Arby’s and alien fans alike.
Leading up to the event, Arby's announced they would join the festivities, and committed to bringing their food truck, the Arby's Roadside Meathouse to serve everyone in attendance.
Adding another layer of uniqueness (and earned media-worthy content), Arby's created a special Area 51-themed menu, which consisted of:
- The Redacted on Rye Sandwich: Roasted turkey on a toasted marble rye bread with swiss cheese, tangy slaw and thousand island dressing—inspired by Arby’s RACHEL Sandwich
- The E.T. Slider: A slider featuring a crispy chicken tender dipped in Bronco Berry Sauce
- Arby’s Frying Objects: Arby’s loaded curly fries topped with savory moon rocks.
- Galaxy Shake: A blue, sweet milkshake base that turns pink and becomes more tart as you drink/stir, topped with a fruit crunch
On Saturday, September 20th, Arby's Roadside Meathouse food truck arrived in Hiko, Nevada and served queues and queues of partygoers this once-in-a-lifetime, top-secret Area 51 menu.
The announcement of Arby’s promise to feed the raider of Area 51 and the subsequent on-site activation generated more than 400 earned media placements and more than 700 million media impressions.
Notable coverage included USA Today, The Takeout, Delish, MSN, and Food & Wine. Wikipedia even added Arby's promise to its Wiki page on the event.
The program also delivered more than 51,000 tweets on Twitter.