A Unique Approach to Content Marketing: In-N-Out Burger

I’m an east coast girl and, having never traveled to the west coast, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting an In-N-Out Burger. I know they have to be something pretty fantastic, though, because when I visited In-N-Out’s Facebook page to write this, the majority of the posts were, by far, people begging them to come east.

This one asks for New York City. Others I saw asked for the entire east coast, North Carolina, Ohio, and even London.

London!

If people from that far away are begging for In-N-Out Burgers, they must be doing some really solid marketing. So with that in mind, I set out to start investigating the In-N-Out content strategy.

Web site

The In-N-Out Burger‘s web site has a lot of content, but it’s not overwhelming. In fact, when you arrive on the homepage, you’re presented with these options: History, Foundation, Downloads, Contact Us. That’s it. When you start clicking around in those sections, however, you discover that there’s a wealth of content to be found.

Topping my content list is probably the History page. Why? It’s an interactive history. In-N-Out gets that lots and lots of web site text can be boring and overwhelming. There’s a sliding rule that allows the viewer to easily move in between years with little blurbs and a small picture available. Choose the part of In-N-Out’s rich history that you want to view – you can look at as much or as little as you like. When you click the box, it expands to provide you with the content about that specific event, including pictures.

All in all, it’s a really cool way to mix things up. Company histories can be kind of dry, and this is a superb example of one that isn’t. I’ve never been to an In-N-Out, so I’ve got nothing personally invested in them. But this setup caught and kept my attention.

The Downloads page also caught my eye. We’ve all heard that a good content strategy offers options. These are usually things like whitepapers, eBooks, research or stats, so I was curious to see what a fast food restaurant might offer me in the way of downloadable content.

Turns out In-N-Out has its own mobile app, as well as downloadable ringtones featuring the company theme.

Targeting mobile users is a wise choice. Mobile use is on the rise, and it’s only expected to keep increasing. This kind of downloadable content was a refreshing mix and a good reminder that content doesn’t always have to be text-based.

Social Media Presence

The only social media site linked to In-N-Out’s web site was a Facebook account. This was a little surprising because most bigger name businesses (even regionally speaking) have accounts on at least two platforms, if not more.

Still, I noticed a few interesting things here, as well. First of all, In-N-Out Burger isn’t posting very regularly. It just seems to be whenever they have something to share, which apparently isn’t all that often. What they share is generally cause-based and appears to be related to their philanthropies. The good news is that they aren’t way into talking about themselves and announcing every move they make while driving their audience away. The bad news is that they’re not doing much to keep at the forefront of their audience’s minds. I only scrolled down a few times before I realized I was looking at news from 2008.

There was, however, some new content offerings here that weren’t on the web site – more goodies for the fans: In-N-Out branded Timeline cover photos. Another great use of content, as well as a good way to appeal to the social media crowd.

One other thing to note from Facebook is that people are constantly leaving comments on In-N-Out’s Timeline. You probably hear that the dissatisfied customer is most vocal, but the opposite seems to be true in this case. The feed is full of people showing their love for the restaurant. When there are concerns, In-N-Out addresses them, just as they do for many of the words of praise.

After Facebook, I was naturally interested to see what their Twitter account would hold. Turns out: not much.

The Twitter account hasn’t been updated since June 2011 and was apparently being run by a fan of the chain who was trying to get it turned over to the company. That apparently never happened. It never became an official account and wasn’t updated again.

Very interesting. A Facebook that’s only barely active and no solid Twitter presence. Very interesting, indeed.

In-N-Out’s fans, however, are still pretty active on the site. Far and wide, they tweet to share their love and appreciation for the brand, as well as to beg for more locations.

Blog

My final stop on the In-N-Out Content Marketing Strategy Tour was to check for a blog.

No blog exists.

This was surprising-but-not-really because a blog will sort of have a tendency to bridge web content and social. Since the social aspect wasn’t necessarily strong, there isn’t much to bridge.

This gets even more interesting.

How in the world does In-N-Out do it!?

In-N-Out has a content strategy, and though it’s relatively weak in other places, it’s pretty strong on their website. While I think they could definitely benefit from amping up the content a little bit (especially the social content), what they’re doing now might be working for them so well for a few reasons.

The biggest reason may be that In-N-Out is a regional chain. You’re going to find them in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. Their reach only needs to extend so far until they are ready to expand to other locations. This is completely conditional, though. It’s if they decide to expand to other locations.

However, fleshing out their content strategy would help them prepare for the future if that’s where they see themselves going.

So instead of using content as their primary source of marketing as so many businesses are doing now, they are fortunate enough to have sustained business on a pretty solid word-of-mouth basis. This is how people like me on the east coast and elsewhere in the world are familiar with the brand at all. It was all word-of-mouth.

But think of what they could do if a more powerful content strategy met with this word-of-mouth marketing. Wowzers. It could be huge for In-N-Out Burger.

What other uncommon approaches to content marketing have you seen work really well? Let us know in the comments!

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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