Dave Knox Contributor/ Forbes - 7/8/2019
As the Chief Marketing Officer of Arby's, Jim Taylor knows a thing or two about driving buzz around their business. Their Arby's themed subscription box sold out in 55 minutes, they set Guinness World Records for both the smallest and largest advertisement, and they invented the Marrot - a meat carrot. I sat down with Jim to talk about this marketing, the importance of the front-line employees in restaurants, and his philosophy of "taking what we do seriously, but not ourselves too seriously."
Dave Knox: “We Have The Meats” has been one of the most famous kinds of classic advertising campaigns of the last few years. However, Arby’s has gone a lot further than just an ad campaign with a history of grabbing headlines with buzz-worthy announcements. What has driven you to mix those worlds of classic media campaigns and buzz?
Jim Taylor: It's a core part of our strategy. We can't compete on spending, dollar for dollar with the bigger guys. But what we think we can compete on is having a really differentiated, interesting tone of voice that can cut through the clutter, and entertain people. There's certainly a lot of effort we devote to getting guests in seats and in cars through the drive-through. But we also put about an equal amount of effort into figuring out how we can engage people, and just show the human side of the brand. Show that we understand what their passions are and are fellow fans along with them.
And also embrace imperfections. People talk a lot about authenticity, and I don't think there's anything more authentic than actually owning some of your imperfections or shortcomings and being willing to have the confidence to be comfortable enough in your own skin to say hey, this is who we are, and hey, we messed up here and we know. For example, we did the Jon Stewart thing too, where he made fun of us for years, and we just played along with it instead of push back, and that led us to an opportunity where on the final week of his airing, we actually bought a commercial that got a lot of publicity, thanked Jon for making fun of us for all those years. As someone that we'd miss, even though we're not sure why.
So I think just that spirit of taking what we do seriously, but not ourselves too seriously, has allowed us to do brand activations that help us fight above our weight. And it's one of the parts of the job that I just enjoy the most, is to figure out how we can, not really create conversation, but figure out what are the conversations that we think we can plug into and have a point of view on, and that people will engage with.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKEKnox: When you look at this world of restaurants and food, what opportunities and threats are you seeing because of the rise of technology, and how has it changed your day to day job?
Taylor: I think that for me, one of the things I'm most excited about, and we have a saying in the restaurant industry that the experience of the guest can never exceed the experience of the employee. And I'm excited about the power that technology has to make the job of our employees easier. Whether it be scheduling, or the job of our general managers, who frankly, is the most important job in our industry, making their jobs easier to forecast their business. To prepare to delight each and every guest that comes through. To give them dashboards that can help them understand real-time and over time, how they're performing on key performance metrics.
We want to deliver new ways to train our front line employees so that they understand why we're doing things and how to do them correctly. I'm really excited about technology's ability to do that and move from what frankly, five years ago, was a very much a “mail a bunch of paper out to people” type mindset. And now we're moving on to more ways to connect with people the way they do in social media and chatting and texting and all that.
I have never seen a business that is more interconnected than restaurants. I mean, ultimately, the restaurant business is about bringing a thousand details together in just the right way, across thousands of restaurants. And the job of marketing or branding, as I view it, is to really own the guest experience across each and every touchpoint. Whether it be outside the restaurant, in terms of how you're trying to drive them in, as well as inside the restaurant, how we equip employees to give every guest a great experience, and what the guest experience is there.
So, it's just, it's a lot bigger world. It's a more complex world. But it's one that is so fun to work on. There are so many challenges and opportunities, and we really focus innovation across every guest touchpoint.
Knox: What's the future marketing look like to you, and where are you most excited in terms of emerging markets, channels, tools, whatever have you?
Taylor: I think the future of marketing to me is just about innovation that creates simultaneous value across every stakeholder group. You know, it's not just enough to position the brand and deliver great advertising. It really is about how you add holistic value to your employees' and your guests' lives across every touch point. And it's going to be more complex, and leaders in marketing are going to have to be up to the challenge of learning new fields and how marketing interacts with them.
And being able to present persuasive arguments for business model innovation, in addition to other types of innovation. And I think in the end, it's going to be a business of finding new solutions to old problems and friction points that really creatively overcome trade-offs.
To me, that's really what innovation is about. It's about not accepting trade-offs between the guests, your bottom line, franchisees, operators, etc. And how do you work to get a solution that leverages technology or some other tool, to solve it, to create that value?
Finally, I think that we have to get better as marketers in the future. There's been so much emphasis put on big data, and I still think in the end, big heart beats out big data. And marketers need to figure out how to really bring to life compelling, emotional benefits when guests interact with their brand. And I think that's been a little bit of something that's been a little bit of a lost art. So many times we start with the how, so much discussion about the how, and we don't go back up to the why and the who and the what often enough, and really think about the story arc that we're creating with the brand, and what can really engage and inspire people emotionally, to become attached and loyal to our brand.
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