Chuck E. Cheese needs some digital crackers to give its autism initiative some bite

Occasionally you can count on a mouse to the right thing. And, America’s Chuck E. Cheese‘s restaurant chain dedicating the first Sunday of the month to sensory play, for children with autism, is both morally and reputationally good. 

Launching in time for World Autism Awareness Day last month, the organisation took a customer’s request to heart when she asked if her local branch would be willing to open earlier for her autistic nephew. 

By dimming the lights, switching off the music and unplugging its animatronic stage show two hours before its official opening time, the restaurant was able to transform into a suitable environment for children who face sensory challenges. 
 Chuck E. Cheese introduces Sensory Sensitive Sundays 

And it worked so well, after a series of regional pilots, Chuck E. Cheese is now taking a bite out of this big initiative. 

So, not only has the brand positioned itself as an organisation that listens (willing to evolve to meet customers’ needs), but also capitalised on this mass-market opportunity by catering for the 3.5m  people in the U.S. who are on the spectrum.

Now, this may sound a little cheesy, but isn’t that the type of company you’d like to associate with? 

It’s not just having an impact on the organisation’s bottom line, but the feel-good fever is spreading to staff too, who are embracing relevant training to enhance performance and service – another good sign that Chuck E. Cheese is taking this seriously. 

So, with customers sharing positive feedback and the company generating good PR write-ups in the likes of AdWeek, Huffington Post and various disability trade titles, now’s the time to ‘turn up’ its marketing strategy while the news is fresh. 

Chuck E. Cheese has issued virtually zero content to support its Sensory Sensitive Sunday’s project – and it needs to strike while the iron’s hot. 

 Chuck E. Cheese is supporting autistic customers 
I guess its marketing agency Current is nibbling on its next steps.

While it waits, I recommend Chuck E. Cheese commissions a video to capture young people enjoying these sensory sessions which can feature on its dedicated landing page on its website and used as a promotional tool across social media. This could also be supplemented with a simple social media strategy – predominantly focused on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – for restaurants to roll out to drive sales in the run-up; sustain an element of exclusivity during the sessions; and celebrate success after each event to boost customers and loyalty. 

To extend its reach, Chuck E. Cheese should also partner with a national autism charity – preferably one with prominent regional centres so it can maximise its presence across the U.S. – to raise awareness and promote advocacy through its e-marketing channels by offering discounts.

Of course, by working with a relevant third party, Chuck E. Cheese could also benefit from data to retarget potential customers (autism community groups for example) via digital advertising to ensure the messaging is landing in the right place. 

All in all, this is an epic opportunity for the party restaurant chain which could grow and grow. 

Will UK brands take notice of the big cheese across the pond? Here’s hoping. 

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