Roy Rogers Restaurants Taps New Marketing Chief To Beef Up On Digital

Mark Jenkins spent his first two weeks as the new senior director of marketing at Roy Rogers Restaurants, manning the drive-thru window, making gravy, frying chicken and prepping salads.

“As a marketing guy, I need to really understand the ops platforms inside the restaurant, the experience and the way things are built,” said Jenkins, who came on board in early June from a brand marketing role at CKE Restaurants, parent company to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

“I’ve probably made over 70 pounds of fries by now,” he quipped. “And I’m confident about the food quality and the culture.”

Now it’s a matter of getting people in the door. Fast food and quick service chain restaurants are experiencing foot traffic declines, which they’re addressing by raising or slashing prices to make up for the dip. Neither is on Jenkins’ agenda.

“We’ve got to remind people about Roy’s, but we’ll do that by being unique and offering items that motivate people to drive past other places,” Jenkins said. “To do that, we need a more integrated strategy between what consumers are experiencing online and what they experience in the restaurant.”

Jenkins took a break from pre-dinner prep to chat with AdExchanger about his digital marketing plans.

AdExchanger: Roy Rogers is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. How do you strike the right balance between leveraging your brand heritage and not coming off as old school?

MARK JENKINS: People have a lot of fondness for this brand. It brings back a lot of good memories for them, which is something we want to use, of course, going forward. Since its inception in 1968, Roy Rogers has been very into the community, with family nights and get-togethers and visits from Santa Claus.

If you think about social media and digital marketing, it’s about the same thing: that connection with consumers. Now, instead of just communicating with consumers who come in on a family night, we can individually reach all consumers.

A lot of fast food brands are getting really good at social media: Taco Bell, Wendy’s Burger King. How will you stand out?

If somebody shares a comment with us online, we’re going to reply. Everyone gets an interaction. If someone came up to you at a restaurant and said, “My meal wasn’t good,” you wouldn’t just stare at them or walk away. You’d say, ‘I’m sorry, how can I help?’ And if someone says they had a good experience, you’d respond and say, “Thank you.”

I see our tone as folding back into the idea of community, which is part of a larger strategy related to setting a consistent tone for what we do both in the restaurant and online. We’re also a small brand, and we need to use our money wisely and not have a lot of overhead. Digital and social can really help us maximize our marketing budget.

What are your top three priorities?

The wider brand strategy is TBD, but generally speaking, it will have three pillars. The first is innovation. I’m a big product guy; I love what’s new. I look at something like food delivery apps and I think, “Can we do that?” There are so many different ways to communicate and interact with consumers that didn’t exist before.

The second pillar is being consumer-centric. When I first started, you’d go into the test kitchen, develop a product and then figure out how to sell it. Today, it’s about what the consumer wants and is looking for first, rather than what we want to sell them.

And third is being data-driven. But it’s not just about data-driven marketing for us, which you’ve got to do or you’re not moving forward. It’s also about testing and making data-driven decisions. Everything we introduce to our internal stakeholders and franchisees needs to be supported by data, and we’re investing in analytics platforms that allow us to do that.

What other technology are you investing in?

I’m a little like Jim Carrey in that “Yes Man” movie right now. There’s so much cool technology out there, and I don’t want to miss anything. If I get a LinkedIn request from a company asking if I’ve got 10 minutes to talk about this or that, I say, “Heck yeah!”

I’m particularly interested in our app and what it can deliver. Most companies are on the second or third generation of their app right now. Roy’s is on its first. We have a pretty good loyalty program, which can generate so much good data, but we also need to make sure that the experience is easy. For example, there are some things I wish the app did that it doesn’t, like the ability to pay directly from the app.

How are you planning to build loyalty among a younger demographic?

Let’s talk about millennials. A few years ago, you could almost have made that word into a drinking game, people said it so much. Millennials are now up to age 36 or 37, depending on your source. They’re getting up there, they have multiple kids, maybe a mortgage, and they’re very different than Gen Y or Z.

The challenge for Roy’s and any heritage brand is that you don’t leave those guys behind as you try to attract a younger audience. That is where our three pillars will come into it: a mix of innovation, being customer-centric and looking at the data.

Is there any TV in your marketing mix?

We’re not built out enough for TV. We want to max out as much as we can on digital and social, given our budget. For more traditional mass marketing, radio is our main vehicle. We also do radio remotes, which might sound old school, but when you pair it with social and digital, you can really multiply the size of the audience.

We also have a good relationship with the Washington Caps, which just won the Stanley Cup. There’s always the question with sports marketing of whether it’s going to pay off, but I think it’s fair to say that if it didn’t before, it certainly has now.

2 Comments

  1. Jason Hathcock

    Great insights on using the brand's resources wisely and in a targeted approach. Good to hear that you don't mind being elbows-deep in back of the house operations to understand it fully.

    Reply
  2. Catrina Craft

    Using traditional radio is a great way to target their customer. People forget that millenials are a lot older.

    Reply

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