CMO interview: How Guzman Y Gomez is redefining the fast food category through brand purpose

Marketing chief for Mexican fast food chain talks through her plans for the brand as well as how she's shaking up customer experience


According to Guzman Y Gomez CMO, Anna Jones, marketers must strive to own two key areas of business strategy if they’re to truly succeed. The first is brand purpose and vision.

“Marketers are the ones thinking through not just what customers want, but the future of categories and where we can take brands,” the fast food chain’s marketing chief tells CMO. “The business and strategy need to come out of this purpose and view.”

She admits it’s not always an easy thing to do. “Often, businesses that have been running for years are too scared to take a stand in one direction or the other, or there are just too many points of view,” she continues. “But as a marketer, you have to fight for that, otherwise everything you do will be compromised because it’s not going to be clear to consumers who you are as a brand.”

Jones’ other must-own is customer experience. “Yes, everyone in the organisation has to own that, but from a marketing point of view, we’re usually the first ones to see it and it’s important to get that right and stay across it,” she says.

It’s these two priorities that are underpinning Jones’ efforts as CMO at Guzman Y Gomez. They’re also fuelling the brand’s ambitious plans to transform the fast food industry.

Anna Jones
Anna Jones


The 10-year-old, Mexican inspired fast food chain is on a rapid growth trajectory and now turns over about $150 million per year. As well as operating more than 70 stores across Australia, it’s quickly growing its international footprint and has a presence in Tokyo and Singapore.

Jones joined Guzman Y Gomez nearly 12 months ago as its first c-level marketer, riding on a wave of executive-level hires that also included a new CEO for A/NZ (former McDonalds UK chief, Mark Hawthorne), CTO, COO, chief of supply chain and head of property.

“We now have this new layer of leadership and executives in the business, and we all came in at the same time,” she says. “So short-term, a lot of the stuff I was doing was getting things in order, putting processes in place, getting our agencies and the team structure right. From there, I started to drive into what is our purpose and vision as a brand and where we are going to go with our go-to-market plan.”

Long-term, Guzman Y Gomez’s priority is to redefine what fast food is. While co-founder, Steven Marks, and his backers saw the opportunity to do something great, what the business hadn’t done was really nailed how to get there, Jones says.

“We’re going on a journey to prove that fast food can be clean, responsible, nutritious and still be acceptable and affordable,” she says. “We know we can do it, but we want to encourage and inspire other fast food players to make these changes too.”

An ambition to lead change

Jones has always wanted to lead change. She has built up her marketing expertise, first in the US and then in Australia, by working with brands looking to significantly adjust their product offerings and go-to-market approach.

An early opportunity was working with General Motors on projects investigating the future of transportation. Jones also highlights her work on the launch of Chevrolet’s first hybrid electric vehicle, the Volt, another category game-changer.

“It wasn’t about just getting the consumer to understanding automotive differently, but also getting internal teams to understand it differently,” she recalls.

While at talent agency, William Morris, Jones also brokered partnerships between corporate brands and celebrities. It was during this time she and the William Morris team worked with Hasbro on changing its approach from toy manufacturer to IP owner by expanding its brands into new entertainment streams.

The first product line to undergo this extension was Transformers. “At the time, Transformers was a dead brand, now it’s a chain of successful movies and IP,” Jones said. “Hasbro got to understand how to leverage the IP it had. Then the company bought a TV network and created TV shows, gaining revenue streams they never had before.”

Upon arriving in Australia, Jones joined fast food chain, Red Rooster. Initially on a three-month creative agency contract, she saw the opportunity to transform the brand and spent nearly four years with the group. The main goal was to bring the brand back to its core proposition, roast chicken.

“The business had lost its way chasing McDonalds, Burger King, and because of discounting and cross-optimising food on the menu,” she explains.

The first program was removing MSG and colourings from the food menu. Jones also spearheaded a large program with Sumo Salad to improve the sides offered by Red Rooster, and even tried to shift the brand from fried to oven baked chicken. The idea lifted chicken sales by 20 per cent in the pilot store, but ultimately was too hard to implement nationally.

Up next: Plugging marketing into customer service

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