Popeyes Louisiana Chicken is a national, consumer-facing chain, but their brand message goes beyond selling chicken to consumers.
Dick Lynch, global brand officer at Popeyes, said at an Executive Jam Session during the 2016 Summer AMA Conference in Atlanta that the marketing team measures its consumer market, such as clicks, engagement and shares, but this is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Marketing must be effective for multiple groups, Lynch says. This means having a singular brand that acts as a “lighthouse” for the company, one that is as effective with consumers as it is with legislators, investors, vendors, franchisees and other stakeholders the company interacts with.
“We believe our brand is a lighthouse our ships–our stakeholders–should navigate,” he says. “We unapologetically put our brand first.”
How Popeyes Marketing and Branding Changed
Lynch spent his first three years as CMO of Popeyes, the latest in his 30-year journey through many consumer packaged goods brands. Up until five years ago, he says everything was about adapting to the consumer and understanding was was important to them. Then he started to see large, successful companies have a singular branding message, internally and externally, and stick with it.
Now, Lynch says putting the brand first and having consumers, employees, vendors and other stakeholders follow will make brands more effective and consistent. Stakeholders navigate around this “beacon of light,” or the brand purpose, according to Lynch.
“We believe its got to be one singular brand purpose, brand value that is the light of this lighthouse,” Lynch says.
Instead of having multiple layers of messaging, such as CMO talking to the consumer, HR to employee, operations to franchises, and so forth, Popeyes now uses a singular message to drive its brand.
Before the branding change, when Lynch worked as Popeyes' CMO, he did consumer marketing, or “everything you need to do to market a retail QSR brand.” This included R&D, calendar, advertising and culinary. Now, as global brand officer, Lynch's office handles internal communications, public relations, guest experience, government relations and much more.
Across all of the areas Lynch handles is the “chain of influence,” where engagement is measured from consumers to the corporate office. This is Lynch's main role: measuring everything class this chain and driving engagement at each step.
Merging Two Messages
Before the change, Popeyes had two different messages; one spoke to Popeyes work to “inspire servant leaders to achieve superior results,” and another to bring “Luisiana cooking into the fast food world.” Lynch, says this was a “significant missed opportunity” for the company.
In merging the two messages, Popeyes came to “Food that ignites our desire to serve,” Lynch says. It may not be heard in consumer messaging as a tagline, but it drives how the branding and marketing works inside and outside of the company.
“It really shapes our messaging and more importantly our behavior with every constituent we talk to,” he says. “What's at stake? … I think this is going to be the cutting edge of how you think about marketing your company and marketing your brand.”
Eighty-three percent of millennials pick a brand because of values the brand represents, Lynch says. For the general U.S. population, that number is 33%.
“That's how strikingly different marketing is becoming,” he says. We believe that you have to have a purpose you stand for that extends beyond just the consumer.”
A company can make its branding the center of the universe, he says, as long as they do it humbly.