CAUTION: just a bit of foul language in the video
Late last year, Mike Johnson, owner of St. Louis BBQ joint Sugarfire Smoke House, received an email that made him jump out of his chair. The producers of the TV series BBQ Pitmasters invited Sugarfire to apply to appear on the show. All the producers needed was a 3-5 minute audition video that explained, with as much in-your-face attitude as possible, why Sugarfire deserved to be on the show.
Mike texted me, asking if I had any good ideas. I said, “Not off the top of my head, but let me put a creative and a film crew on this.” He agreed the opportunity was important enough to bring in outside help on, and we got to work.
Chris Reimer, our VP of Social Media (me), contacted Bill Streeter of Hydraulic Pictures. A documentary filmmaker with some amazing work under his belt, Bill would prove to be the perfect choice to concept and shoot this project.
Bill shot raw footage on location of Mike and his pitmaster, Casey Jovick, with help from Chris and Bill’s business partner, Gretta Forrester. Mike and Casey are, believe it or not, pretty humble guys, which presented a small problem. They’re masters at their craft, having trained with some of the best chefs in the world. However, like most of us, they’re a bit shy around a camera. Per the show’s instructions, this audition video needed to be loud and boastful. As conflict makes the reality TV world go ’round, the producers had to ensure that Mike and Casey could hold their own. So they had to be quite a bit louder and more boastful than normal. After a slow start, Bill kept shooting and providing advice as Chris and Gretta jumped up and down in the background, imploring Mike and Casey to get crazy. Eventually, they got warmed up and began explaining their smoking process, talking trash about Memphis BBQ, and basically claiming the $50,000 prize before even appearing on the show.
Bill got what he needed, chose a great musical track, and added a nice little message to Memphis at the end. With a final video in hand, Mike submitted his application to BBQ Pitmasters. Within a week, he had received the good news: they were going to Tampa at the end of January to be on the show. Tune in to Destination America on April 26th for the Season 6 premiere!
What’s the ROI of this expenditure? Prospective clients ask us this all the time. In this case, it would be a tough calculation. Mike didn’t ask that question; he just knew that appearing on television would be a huge break for them. Since opening Sugarfire in 2012, Mike has generated amazing publicity via sandwich giveaways during the government shutdown, winning awards like Best New Restaurant in St. Louis and Best BBQ in St. Louis, making a Sweet Baby Cheezus sandwich for famed NYC PR man Peter Shankman, and the list goes on. Mike knows that such publicity adds up over time. Mike and his team are very thankful and honored to be mentioned among St. Louis’ best barbeque joints after less than a year and a half in operation, but they’re not resting on their laurels. They’ve built a social media machine (check out the post they did on Facebook, announcing their appearance on the show – over 500 likes). Mike uses this ever-growing marketing asset on a daily basis to drive traffic to the restaurant. They also employed Falk Harrison to build their website, which was a substantial investment for them.
Mike and his team are taking a long-term approach to social media and brand building, and the lines out the door are evidence that it’s paying off.
Falk Harrison has been helping organizations with marketing and communications since 1971. Believe it or not, we don’t specialize in making 3-minute reality TV show audition videos; we simply apply great thinking to whatever communication challenge stands before us. The storytelling mediums have changed over the years, and video is the latest (and one of the greatest) ways to communicate with your key stakeholders. To star in your own video production, customized for your organization’s specific needs, contact Jon Falk at (314) 531-1410.