Everything I ever learned about Outdoor Advertising, I learned from Cracker Barrel – by Majorie Dudley

As I was sitting here taking a look at the day’s news and figuring out what might be worthy of posting to Billboardtastic, I came across an article (Majorie calls it an essay) written by a fellow Lamar Advertising colleague. I feel she is spot on with her thoughts regarding outdoor advertising and Cracker Barrel’s marketing efforts. Kudos to Marjorie for taking the time to put this together and helping everyone understand the power of outdoor! Keep on rock’n Marjorie!


If you have never eaten at a Cracker Barrel it means two things, one, you have probably not traveled much, at least by car, and two you are seriously missing out on a bucket-list-esque dining experience. I am from the Midwest and have traversed the country numerous times and thus Cracker Barrel has become one of my road-trip must-haves; even better is when I get to introduce Cracker Barrel to a newbie thus turning them into a fledgling Cracker-head (okay, maybe the nickname needs some work).

In addition to Cracker Barrel, I have another passion and that is outdoor advertising; with outdoor it works because you just can’t beat the reach, frequency and return on investment…if you do it right. Therefore, by the end of this essay I hope to have you convinced of two things: 1.) You need the experience of a Cracker Barrel like you need your cell phone (yep, I mean it, sure you won’t die without it but it makes life that much more enjoyable) and 2.) If you want to be successful at advertising, particularly in the best media in the universe, you need to pick up a couple tips from this country behemoth.

When Cracker Barrel was awarded the 2011 OBIE Hall of Fame Award from OAAA, Outdoor Advertising’s trade organization, highly respected industry giants had these kudos to give the outdoor guru and now it becomes my advice to you, grasshopper:

1.)    Use “Superb Imagery” (Francois de Gaspe Beaubien)
Imagery is the key to getting your point across in a less-is-more fashion; be careful not to use imagery just for the sake of imagery, though. Use it to evoke an emotion, say a thousand words without, well, saying a thousand words or to build instant rapport (especially if that person, place or thing is already very trustworthy)

2.)    Be “Simple, Powerful, [and] Clear cut” (Trudy Hardy)
Again, Less IS more with outdoor, not just a rhyme but if it helps you to remember it then so be it! Don’t try to say 15 things poorly when you can say one clearly. Maybe if I keep up the rhyming you will imbed this crucial piece of Outdoor Design 101 in your head—FOREVER!

3.)    “Understand how to use the media” (Tracy Wong)
This holds up no matter what media you are using but particularly in outdoor where the strength is the reach and perhaps not so much the read-time, one must grasp that and not try to incorporate a seven-stanza ballad.

4.)    “Stay on brand” (Tracy Wong), Be “Consistent” (Jose Molla) and Continue to “Have the same conversation with [your customer]” (Jonathan Schoenberg)
What that really means is find a path, hopefully based in strategy and beginning with a little research based on who actually isyour customer already and then go for it. Don’t bebop around trying the next thing, that’s like trying a new diet every week because you didn’t become supermodel-skinny overnight. No, consistency is key, because without it you are trying something new just about the time you start getting a little traction. In advertising momentum is crucial and brands build equity over time. Make sure you don’t loose yours just ‘cause the grass looks greener on that other glossy ad. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, the same holds true for your advertising media. It won’t do anybody any good if you just do billboards for a week, then try radio and finally throw a little something on T.V…. you’ll end up complaining that “it just didn’t work…”, well, no kidding, you were just trying to find the magic pill and in case you didn’t get the memo: there is none; not in advertising, dieting or life.

Well, there you have it. While it takes a many components to come up with a successful brand and a successful advertising campaign, you can follow the lead of some of the greats like Cracker Barrel and learn from their successes (and failures) and hopefully skip a lot of time-consuming and expensive failures.

If you want to investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions as to why Cracker Barrel is a Midwest and Southern staple then check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC0bVDJcD0s&feature=player_embedded

Marjorie Dudley has been working with Lamar Transit Advertising since January 2008. She can be contacted atmdudley@lamar.com. Lamar Advertising Company is one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the United States and has operated under the Lamar name since 1902. As of June 1, 2009, Lamar owned and operated approximately 154,000 billboard advertising displays in 44 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, approximately 98,000 logo advertising displays in 20 states and the province of Ontario, Canada, and operated over 27,000 transit advertising displays in 16 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Lamar offers its customers a fully integrated service, satisfying all aspects of their billboard display requirements from ad copy production to placement and maintenance. Lamar Northwest serves Vancouver, WA, and Portland, Salem-Keizer, Albany, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford, OR. Lamar’s corporate headquarters is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: