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Sonic’s recipe for Coachella blends impulse buys and Instagram imagery

Sonic Drive-In is making a bold move with a sponsored Instagram campaign for which it developed a photogenic product that is being paired with a shop now button to target Coachella attendees.

The retailer is attempting to shift away from urging users to change their behavior to fit with a marketer on social media, such as posting with a specific branded hashtag, and is instead adopting to existing behaviors. Sonic is sharing sponsored photographs taken in partnership with a professional chef for a new product created specifically for Instagram, targeting Coachella attendees.

“I love that they are using Shop Now on Instagram, because it plays off of the very basic human desire for instant gratification,” said Sarah Ware, CEO of Markerly. “You see a beautiful and delicious shake, and you press buy.

“No waiting in lines to place an order,” she said. “You see what you want, and you go for it.

“That is the beauty of what Sonic has developed here. This campaign also changes the public perception of Sonic permanently, and makes it relatable and desirable to an even younger audience.”

Imagery on Instagram
Instagram users at Coachella will be able to participate in a unique campaign from Sonic, as it positions itself towards younger consumers through nontraditional social media tactics. Sponsored posts from Sonic will appear in the feeds of users on the festival grounds.

The posts are special images of a new shape, featured in a square container to be more photogenic and congruent with the social media platform. The shop now button on the sponsored posts allows users to receive the new square shakes from Sonic exclusively at the festival.

Labeled as “the world’s first shakes designed for Instagram,” the idea behind the campaign is to stop trying to get consumers to do something to serve the marketer, but instead appeal to them through behavior that is already established. So rather than telling a user to reshare an image or create a post with a branded hashtag, Sonic is appealing to them by supporting impulse buys and imagery that is already popular on Instagram.

The new line of shakes was developed with help from Chef Jacques La Merde, who has made a name for himself through food photography on Instagram. The shake container and straw are completely square and are not available at store locations, but only at the Coachella music festival.

Sonic’s social media
Sonic is sharing a wide range of images of the various new square shakes on Instagram along with the hashtag #SquareShakes. The campaign is promoting its new Creamery Shakes, on which the Coachella Square Shakes are based.

Sonic was also among the numerous retailers leveraging World Emoji Day to drive traffic to locations by inciting cravings and playing on consumers’ love of emojis (see more).

“A limited release on Instagram that mimics the Sonic experience at a festival, brilliant,” Ms. Ware said. “Rather than pulling up and having your order brought to you, Sonic is bringing that convenience to a festival, allowing for you to order where you are, and having the shakes brought to you.

“Also, Sonic leveraged the creativity and social power of an Instagram influencer, which the most organic method of connecting with your target audience,” she said. “I just wish I could be at Coachella to try this.”