Industry Marketing News

Your Restaurant Marketing Secret Weapon

I published an article for Foodable titled, “The Changing Restaurant CMO in 2015”. Before clicking to go check it out, hang on, let’s talk about it for a sec.

Changing Role of the Restaurant CMO

In it, I suggest there are three elements that the restaurant CMOs of the (immediate) future will need to do and consider:

  1. Think big.
  2. Get used to asking, “What is the data telling us?”
  3. Integrate your Point of Sale (POS) and customer marketing

But there’s obviously more to the story than three helpful snippets. Let’s talk about that.

The Hidden Message in My Foodable Article

When you read the article very carefully, there’s a really powerful lesson in it that’s NOT listed in the 1-2-3 above. It’s a huge secret weapon.

I’ve long held that the restaurant industry, as much as I love it dearly, has a bit of an echo chamber problem.

The secret weapon: innovations from outside the industry. 

Things are moving very quickly for restaurant marketing leaders — CMOs, VPs of Marketing, and even Directors — and many, many, many of them are finally adopting new strategies, programs, and approaches to capitalize on the tidal wave of opportunities. It’s really refreshing to witness (and take part in).

But the hidden message in that article came in the commentary from Dan Fogarty of Noodles & Co. that originated back in November 2013. Since I didn’t quote him directly in my Foodable article, here’s a question he got and what he said in response:

Dan Fogarty Noodles & Co. CMO Perspectives

Now, don’t get hung up on the “frictionless payments” part — although that’s a great insight. DO get hung up on the brilliance of asking that question in the first place (nice work, Clay) and whom Dan has selected as a model (Amazon), and how he’s drawn correlation to the restaurant industry.

Just five years ago, it would have been a Crazy Restaurant Marketing Leader who would have identified Amazon as a great source of inspiration for their restaurant concept or marketing strategy. Today, it’s still pretty darn enterprising and creative, but it’s going to become the rule.

I don’t mean to say that everyone should look to Amazon, specifically. What I mean is that looking at trends outside of the restaurant industry that could be incorporated into your brand — THAT is the way to go for the Restaurant CMO of the Future.

10 Ideas from Outside the Restaurant Industry


So let’s do this: I’ll give you 10 ideas from outside companies that will serve as brainstorming prompts. Some are tech based. Some promotional. You’re encouraged to use them to spur your own thinking for what your brand could consider doing. Sound good? Let’s get started.

  1. Lowe’s, the home improvement chain, has a 4-minute video teaching people how to install a ceiling fan. It’s gotten 462,000 views as of this writing. Let’s allow that number to sizzle on your brain for a minute. What could you teach your customers to do via video, while encouraging greater love and attachment for your brand? Surely there are cooking tips, home recipes, efficiencies?
  2. Redbull, the energy drink brand, is ALL OVER the X Games. They post a single video from the X Games to their Facebook page, with no product offering at all, and they get 5,000+ engagements plus 1,200 shares. What I love about that particular video — there’s no overt branding. How can you leverage current events and activities to identify with your customers with a hard-sell pitch?
  3., the B2B CRM behemoth, hosts an annual user conference. They’re one of many tech companies who do so. They sell tickets for a large-scale event in which they teach people about their brand — how to use it and how to love it. What could you do to justify a gathering of 500 loyal, paying brand advocates at a huge brand event? And how would you engage them?
  4. Kickstarter, the crowdfunding hub, allows people to get their project or company pre-funded. You won’t succeed in getting your next restaurant location funded (only a very few restaurants have pulled this feat off) — but maybe your how-to cooking magazine (or some other project?) could be. Worth considering.
  5. Digital CoCo, founder of the Restaurant Social Media Index, is presenting its Rizmys at the upcoming FSTEC NexGen conference in New Orleans in September. They’ve made their awards matter to our industry. Surely by now you’ve got analytics on your customers, and a firm grasp on your most loyal (and popular) social fans and followers, so you could host your own brand awards?
  6. Nike+ Move, a smartphone app from Nike, allows users to compare their daily movement and activity level against their friends or other Nike+ Move users. Is there some way you could use your own guest stats (see #5), compiled through a vendor, to have some fun letting customers see how they compare to others? Leaderboarded can help you do this.
  7. Mailchimp, the self-service email service provider, has a dedicated online support site like many tech companies. You can type in plain-language questions and get great, relevant search results. The only restaurant brand I know that does anything close to a Q&A with customers is McDonald’s in Canada. I smell an opportunity for people to get to know your brand better.
  8. Being Girl, a microsite from Procter & Gamble dedicated to educating preteens and their moms, gets an estimated 70,000 unique visitors each month (per Could your signature menu item get its own microsite? Could your loyal customers have their own, online way to interact with each other?
  9. Uber, the much-heralded alternative taxi startup, has an array of innovations to learn from. But let’s choose this: Customers simply walk away from their driver when they’ve arrived — receipts are emailed to them or directly into their Concur (expense management) account. Could you do something similar to make life easier for your business guests?
  10. 120 Sports, a new entry into the sports news market, wants to be a bite-sized ESPN. Sports news in casual, 2-3-minute video segments. It’s lightning fast. You can consume sports updates, opinions, and get on with your day. It’s like the HOV lane of sports news. What could you offer customers that makes the experience lightning fast? Like, 2-minutes fast? Could you set up a separate line for walk-in customers only wanting to buy one item?

Sometimes the best ideas come from sparks of genius elsewhere. As you strive to get your restaurant brand and restaurant marketing efforts to a new level, be open-minded about where those initial ideas come from.

(“Ideas” image courtesy of Sean MacEntee.)

About the author

Brandon Hull

Brandon is the original founder of He has helped thousands of restaurants implement innovative marketing strategies, campaigns, and tactics by incorporating new technology, in order to attract loyal guests.