Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are owned, operated, and franchised by CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc., which has more than 3,800 restaurant locations in 44 states and 43 countries. I wanted to know more about their tremendous marketing success, so I sat down with Jeff Jenkins, chief marketing officer, CKE Restaurants who leads their global marketing and branding oversite of both the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands worldwide. Below is our conversation about the power of influencers and movies, relevant messaging, and mobile-forward campaigns.

What marketing strategies would you say have been most effective?

Our success has been reaching customers where they are with relevant marketing at the right time. In today’s world, we need to be both visual and mobile-forward. The key is to interact with customers in ways that are relevant to their lives with meaningful messages to generate excitement and engagement. The defining time for developing customers used to be when someone they got their driver’s license because they could control their own experience of going to a restaurant. But now, the defining time is when they are on a mobile screen and having interactions with their friends. While it was once important to have your brand on the billboard near the restaurant—now it’s imperative to be part of the conversation when friends are having social moments around 4 p.m. and deciding where to have dinner that night.

Tell us about your Froot Loops Mini-Donut Campaign.

We didn’t have sweet snacky products on our menu and since retro-nostalgia themes are so big, we connected the two. The Froot Loop Mini Donuts are fun and delicious and a great example of “camera first” food as they are red, green, and Instagrammable. With this campaign, we attracted “on the go” moms because Froot Loop Mini-Donuts are a kid-friendly snack available all day and, many of these moms have a nostalgia experience because they grew up eating Froot Loops cereal. We also were able to reach the audience who want the camera-first and tweet & eat dining experience, which is a growing phenomenon. Further, we extended the campaign’s reach by enlisting high-profile celebrity and athlete personalities to appear in “#NotMilk” creative, featuring Froot Loops Mini Donuts and spoofing iconic GOT MILK ads. We used data to drive this campaign and it had fantastic results so much so that we oversold donuts so quickly we had to dial-back on the spend. It was tremendously effective and very exciting.

How important are current-events in your marketing strategies?

If done well and are timely, then they can be very effective. Another of our ideas that really caught fire happened around the TV show, Lucifer. When Fox cancelled the show, a hashtag was started called #SaveLucifer in hopes another network would pick it up. We used this social-digital opportunity to tie-in our spicy El Diablo Thickburger with jalapeno poppers (El Diablo is Spanish for The Devil). We created social content around the TV show and our El Diablo Thickburger, volunteering to fans that we could help #SaveLucifer. We saw immediate engagement from the strong Lucifer fan base and beyond, with even the cast and crew retweeting us. Netflix picked up Lucifer for Season 4, and we worked with the show to host lunch for the cast a crew, which resulted in earned media and more social engagement. This is a great example of having a brand that fits the conversation and we can share the passion. Because of our very large Carl’s Jr. West Coast presence, entertainment is of big interest for to our customers. In a similar way, Hardee’s too has a way to interact with customer online conversations through college sports. This is so popular with them that we have sponsored some college football podcasts because their listenership is so high with rapid college football fans on social. Data mining really helped in both of these situations.

How important is social media to your brand awareness?

Social and digital are the sharpest point of the sphere. They are the leading edge when defining your brand’s personality and voice. Social channels have the ability to push your message further than traditional media but it has to echo across demographics. We try and push the envelope of social for what we’re doing but with new product introductions every 8 to 10 weeks, we on TV and radio just given nature of our business. But the real impact in customer growth happens when you connect the two over the course of the campaign.

What would be your top marketing tip to a new restaurant just starting?

Know your audience. If you’re creating something for everyone it won’t resonate with anyone. I heard once that if you find an audience of one and can appeal to that one person, it will echo. I believe that. Find moments of lightening where you can strike hard and quick to have a powerful impact versus throwing up a bunch of digital banner ads that mean nothing. Know your audience and create products and services that will echo and reach an even bigger audience one person at a time.

Reader question: 

We don’t offer carry-out unless it is an extension of an order placed while guests dined at the table. Is this a mistake? Houston, Texas

Yes and here’s why. Today’s customer wants the option of enjoying their favorite food at home so why have them buy from your competitor when a couple or family doesn’t feel like getting dressed up. This may require some logistical shifts to handle the carry-out business but it will be worth it. Not only will you grab market-share from local competitors but also from home-delivery food subscription services which are becoming increasingly more popular. Don’t let customers who love dining with you when they go out be forced to dine with your competitor when they want to stay in. Add the carry-out service to make sure it’s your restaurant every time! And now with third-party delivery solving the driver dilemma that next step just became that much easier. 
Do you have a restaurant marketing question?

Email and follow him on Twitter @Vitals_com

Editor’s note: This is the latest monthly column with Rom Krupp, the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, an analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You can read his column on Twin Peaks here, Abuelo’s here, Kenny’s Restaurant Group here, Firenza Pizza here, Sonny’s BBQ here, Boston’s here, Del Frisco’s Grill here, City Barbecue here, Four Foods Group here, Melt Shop here, Sizzler here, Saxbys here, Stoner’s Pizza Joint here, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar here.

Rom Krupp is the founder and CEO of Marketing Vitals, a game-changing analytics software helping restaurants of all shapes and sizes with intelligence that leads to actionable decision-making With over 20 years working with over 400 brands, Rom Krupp helps restaurants turn data into dollars.
Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Story, Carl's Jr., Hardee's