Drive-Ins Offer New (Old-Fashioned) Brand Experiences

Drive-in theaters, once a staple entertainment option for families across the country, have been dying a slow death for decades. The main reason for this has to do with changes in urban development – you need a lot more space for everyone to sit in a car rather than a small seat, and large vacant plots that are near desirable commercial areas are expensive and difficult to come by. But with coronavirus threatening to keep traditional movie theaters closed for the foreseeable future, the classic drive-in presents a rare opportunity for consumers to safely venture out of the house for some fun. With away-from-home channels declining and shoppers moving towards online grocery ordering, brands like Kraft Heinz are seeing drive-ins as a potential channel for brand experiences.

The CPG conglomerate recently announced a partnership with Screenvision, which owns the largest network of existing drive-ins in the country. In an official press release, Magen Hanrahan, Kraft Heinz VP of Media and Marketing Services, explained that “Both drive-in theaters and our Kraft Heinz brands bring people together through quintessential American family experiences,” adding that “We are excited that so many of our iconic brands from Heinz Ketchup, Ore-Ida and Kraft Singles to Bagel Bites, Kraft Mac & Cheese and Planters, will be part of families spending time with their loved ones through fun drive-in movie nights.”

Kraft Heinz is sponsoring the intermission between double features, with insurer State Farm sponsoring the film screenings. Kraft Heinz activation programming is set to include games, branded trivia, and “custom interstitials.”

Recent changes in shopper behavior don’t necessarily mean that there are fewer opportunities for brand experiences. It just means that brand leaders need to get more creative with how they reach consumers, and how they can help them meet their new needs. Quarantine has people searching for options for safe socialization, for example, and Kraft Heinz has seized an opportunity to generate consumer goodwill by being part of an innovative solution.

It remains to be seen whether or not drive-ins could make any sort of a significant comeback, but this is exactly the sort of thinking that will allow brands to be more competitive and create stronger relationships with consumers.

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