Since Yum Brands sold A&W Restaurants in late 2011, the Lexington-based fast food chain's new management has turned to an old friend for promotion: Rooty the Great Root Bear.
The bear mascot has become the company's online spokesman, starring in quirky videos, an app in which he burps the alphabet, and a stunt in which he attempts to have a LinkedIn page. It turns out they're only for real people.
The refocus on Rooty has been part of a series of promotions planned by the chain with the help of local advertising firm Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions.
The revival of Rooty comes after an eight-year absence as the company's prior ownership stopped using him, said Liz Bazner, A&W's social and digital communications strategist.
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"The joke around here was prior to 2012 he had been hibernating," she said. "And we wanted to show he was back and is the official 'spokesbear' for A&W."
The Lexington-based company's new website at Awrestaurants.com launched in January with Rooty featured prominently. There's a streaming bear cam that shows his daily activities. If you log in at night, he's snoozing and during the work day, he might just be leaving early.
The company shot a day's worth of footage and edited it down into two-minute segments that loop, Bazner said.
They'll also be posting a series of reality television-style shorts starring Rooty beginning this month.
Along with the website revamp, the company also launched an Apple and Android app in which you feed root beer to Rooty so he can burp the alphabet.
"Kids love to play with it, and their little faces light up," Bazner said.
The company's Twitter presence, @awrestaurants, is also now the voice of Rooty, amusing since the mascot doesn't actually speak.
"That's why social media is so good for Rooty," she said.
In stores, the company has standees of the mascot and executives are working with Asian franchisees to learn about their success throwing birthday parties for children.
But the all-about-Rooty promotion hit a snag when LinkedIn, the social media site focused on career professionals, axed the company's page for the mascot.
"We made it for about two weeks before the powers that be at LinkedIn noticed," Bazner said, noting they were nice about it but shut down the page because "Rooty isn't real."
A&W's answer: a tongue-in-cheek video of Rooty crying.
Did the effort pay off?
Sure, Bazner said. Forbes magazine wrote a story about it.