Shake Shack Is Building a Digital Community to Get Through the Pandemic

Online initiatives aim to keep it connected with fans

shack camp supply box
Shack Camp, a virtual summer camp offered by the fast casual chain, includes a box with supplies for six weeks of activities. Shake Shack
Headshot of Richard Collings

Shake Shack’s latest community outreach effort, a virtual summer Shack Camp, was created for both kids and kids at heart and born out of the challenges the company’s employees are facing in balancing work and family during the pandemic, according to the fast casual chain’s CMO, Jay Livingston.

That’s particularly true now that school’s out and summer camps across the country have been canceled.

Livingston told Adweek that the virtual camp is an extension of the content the burger and shake specialist has been offering to engage its customers during the pandemic. It builds on the series Shake Shack at Your Shack that shows folks at home how to cook up their favorite Shake Shack menu items.

It’s all about learning “how to connect with customers beyond Shake Shack’s walls,” Livingston explained.

Though the company rarely brings in outside creative agencies, Shake Shack once again teamed with agency Circus Maximus to create Shack Camp, which came out of a brainstorming session between the two parties. Circus Maximus also helped create Shake Shack at Your Shack, with video production by Yacht Club.

Circus Maximus was selected for Shack Camp both because of the instant chemistry that developed during the pitch process and for the agency’s ability to turn around projects quickly, according to Ashley Richardson-George, director of content strategy at Circus Maximus.

To participate in Shack Camp, families received a box that included all the supplies they would need for six weeks’ worth of activities, from arts and crafts to coming up with original scary stories to tell around a proverbial camp fire.

Beginning in early June, that included designing and manufacturing the box, procuring the supplies, putting together the curriculum, and writing the script for, casting and shooting the accompanying videos. “Soup to nuts, it took five weeks to develop,” Livingston said.

The campaign also helps support The Fresh Air Fund’s virtual summer program, which provides activities for children between ages 7 and 13 in the city, as part of Shake Shack’s mission to “Stand for Something Good.”

“The goal was to raise as much money for Fresh Air fund as possible,” Richardson-George said. “Brands have to decide if they are more for themselves or more for their communities. And the brands that are doing well right now are about serving people.”

Shifting from parks and patios to digital

It’s the latest in a number of initiatives the fast casual chain has undertaken since the pandemic began to continually adapt to a challenging environment, Livingston said.

For one, the company streamlined its menu a bit and trimmed regional collaborations and special offerings in order to cut costs. The safety of employees and guests, of course, are the top priority, he added.

Shake Shack also had to rethink packaging from a safety and delivery or pick-up perspective, such as replacing existing containers with clamshell boxes, for example, to help keep hot food hot and cold food cold, he pointed out.

While the company continues to eschew traditional media, it has increased its spend on paid digital advertising. It’s also focused more energy on developing its presence on social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and, more recently, TikTok. Content such as Shake Shack at Your Shack and Shack Camp have played a key role.

“It’s been a big shift for us,” Livingston said, adding that Shake Shack has expanded its delivery options to “every delivery platform. That’s been an important relationship for us.”

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to provide challenges to dining establishments across the country.

At Shake Shack, while guests are beginning to return to locations in places such as New York City that were shuttered at the outset of the outbreak, in states such as Florida and Texas, restaurants may have to close again due to recent spikes there.

“It’s crazy to not be worried,” Livingston lamented. “We were born out of fine dining. Hate what we’ve seen happen in restaurants.”


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@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.
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