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

Emphasising customer service

Another major achievement at Red Rooster was implementing the QSR’s first nation-wide customer services program.

For Jones, customer service is so critical to what marketers do day-to-day, as well as brand health, it has to sit in marketing. One of the biggest changes she’s made to her team at Guzman Y Gomez is created customer service as a standalone function. The team is also rolling out a comprehensive program internally.

“Everyone in the marketing team had been taking turns handling feedback, but it wasn’t really seen as a function in the business,” she says. “A big part of this is bringing more visibility to the business and more accountability down to the stores.”

Jones defines customer services on several levels. The first and short-term focus is how to turn an upset customer into a happy one.

“Then there’s the aspect of what actually when wrong and how do we fix it,” she says. “How many times do organisations get complaints about something over and over again, and they just think the customer service person needs to make the consumer happy? They don’t think about the fact that maybe something is broken – the food, procedure or recipe that’s causing this issue, for example.”

The third component to customer service is collectively interpreting the trends, feedback and what customers are saying for growth and innovation.

“It’s not that customers will tell you the future of where you need to go, but often you’ll see trends that help guide you about what’s happening,” Jones explains. “That could be an early indicator on sentiment shift, or constant feedback on wanting to customise the product more than you’re allowing.”

An example in Guzman Y Gomez’s case is offering more customisation for the modern consumer. The group has already introduced different spice levels on meat and vegetable offerings because of customer feedback.

“But the broader thing it told us is that customisation is key for our customers,” Jones says. As a result, customisation was a major consideration in rebuilding the brand’s mobile app, and it’s also informing how the online platform evolves.

“It’s not just about fixing the problem, but understanding what the customer is saying and finding programs inside the organisation to listen and action them,” Jones says.

But none of this is something marketing can solely own. “Someone could own customer service, but it’s not just up to them to fix an issue, it has to be a company-wide initiative,” she adds.

Building a brand with purpose

It’s not just internal thinking that’s getting a shake-up at Guzman Y Gomez. Jones says the whole team is aware of the opportunity the brand has to challenge the fast food category itself.

“We want to prove that you can do good, ethical, clean food that’s also convenient. Fast food doesn’t have to be bad food,” Jones says. Guzman Y Gomez also supports a children’s refuse charity called Mission Mexico, further cementing its purpose-led brand image.

“As we go on this route of having 100 per cent clean food, that’s preservative free and that respects animal welfare, all of these things costs money. But we won’t ever compromise on our food. So our business model is constantly top of mind, and how live up to this mission while remaining profitable. If we’re not profitable, we’re not proving anything.”

This makes long-term and strategic marketing vision a must for Guzman Y Gomez. Jones admits customers love the purpose and authenticity, but they’re not necessarily making those decisions in their food in their current life right now.

“But we’re doing it anyway because it’s the right thing to do, and in the long-term, that’s going to get people to love our brand, trust us, and feel our values are aligned,” she says. “If we can get the organisation focused on right KPIs and it helps that we’re moving in the right direction, that helps stem the conversation for long term and not just focusing on short-term wins.”

Collaboration is key to making this happen, Jones says. “In everything, and especially in a smaller organisation like ours, there isn’t one decision that doesn’t at some point touch another department,” she points out.

“Products touches the food team, operations, procedures and finances. Nothing is isolated. And if you put one person on one project and ask them to push it through, you don’t get the breadth of ideas you would if you look at things as a collaborative project and have ideas sharing across teams.”

Marketing mix

Jones says her approach to the marketing mix is also different to what she’s experienced at more traditional fast food chains. As recently as 12 months ago, Guzman Y Gomez hadn’t spent any money on traditional media or above-the-line advertising.

“Traditionally in fast food, you launch a product, do a campaign and you never go dark – you need to be doing campaigns at all times,” she comments. “I quickly realised that’s not right for this brand. I know it isn’t for any brand, but you get sucked in to what the category does and it’s hard to break that.”

The brand is in the market now with its first media campaign off the back of its refreshed app, and Jones says it’s investing heavily in digital. But it’s also building out a content hub on its site featuring longform editorial and educational articles and video.

“We know there is confusion about clean labels and nutrition, and we want to try and help educate people to see through the weeds,” she says. “We’re also taking part in a documentary to showcase our journey as a brand. We are open to being that transparent, and that editorial content is so powerful because it’s real.”

Data is another focus, and Jones recently hired an analytics lead to join her team. “While we have the data, we didn’t have someone looking at the data, understanding it and using it to strengthen our business decisions,” she says.

But while data is important to understanding what’s happening in a business, Jones warns it’s not a tell-all for the future. “It can make you too risk averse, and often limit your views on what’s possible,” she claims.

Staying nimble

As a fast-growing brand, it’s vital teams and approaches remain nimble and innovative, something Jones believes is again driven by the CMO spearheading a clear brand purpose and vision.

“We have to be clear about each goal and purpose and where we want to go as a brand and make sure everyone is aligned behind that,” she says. “But the path to get there will move and shift as we learn things, grow as a brand and as new opportunities come up. For me, it was incredibly important that we nailed what that purpose was.

“And we can’t waiver on purpose – it’s the one thing we have to get right.”

But despite her quest for change, Jones sees the foundations of marketing remaining the same, even if the skills and channel mix are transforming.

“Brand awareness, and getting someone to recommend you to friends and family, are the most powerful things you can have,” she concludes. “But how we go about that is what keeps changing and we have to adapt.”

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