People really, really love Cafe Rio. But for fans of the Mexican fast-casual favorite, that love tends to manifest in some unusual ways. Still, Cafe Rio wanted to show some appreciation to their community, so they enlisted a few fans (and their tweets) to help demonstrate how intense (and surreal) that fandom can really get. The result is “The Obsession Is Real”, a campaign from creative agency Funworks that not only launches Cafe Rio’s new fajitas but gives the popular chain a new, more unpredictable creative direction.

“Cafe Rio has evangelists – people really freak out about the brand,” explains Funworks CCO Craig Mangan. “So much so that Cafe Rio usually opts to do very little marketing. But we saw an opportunity to tap into that obsession to help lift the brand beyond where they’ve been.”

With this goal, Funworks updated the restaurant’s brand guidelines and created a series of :30 and :15 spots that put the fandom and their unique sense of humor front and center. In “Sizzle”, the Cafe Rio pitchman introduces the new fajitas with a quirky aural delivery that will make ASMR fans jump for joy. Meanwhile, “Obsessed” goes straight to the fans, featuring real tweets about how far Rio-lovers will go for their favorite cafe – including bathing in a tub filled with queso. From there, things only get weirder.

Like many of Funworks’ projects, the campaign was conceptualized in one of their Funworkshops, the agency’s improv-inspired process that champions open conversation and collaboration toward quickly generating engaging concepts, strategies and content. This time, however, they added a twist. The agency specifically brought fans of Cafe Rio into the session, illuminating the depth of their love for the brand. In the end, these conversations got Cafe Rio leadership comfortable with a new direction for the brand.

“The output is the best measure of a good process,” stated Cafe Rio Chief Concept Officer Todd Smith. “We love both the brand tone and the creative that Funworks developed. The workshop, and creative work that followed, brought our fan obsession to life in a fun way. We’re all proud of the work.”

While off to a great start, “The Obsession Is Real” marks only the beginning of the collaboration – one which all parties hope will continue in the same spirit of exploration and fun.

About Funworks
A 2018 Ad Age Small Agency of the Year, Funworks is a creative consultancy that battles the forces of corporate politics, spin and fear using the latest psychology and neuroscience. We specially design extreme collaboration Funworkshops that include our clients, agency staff, and comedian consumers who act as a neutral third party. Our exercises get to truths and strategies in a relaxed, positive environment, helping us get alignment from all decision makers on the best ideas. After the workshop, the work we craft is sold on the first round 90% of the time, which is 3x faster than the traditional creative process. And much more fun.