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Dunkin’ Brands vice president of stewardship Drayton Martin and Noodles & Co. chief marketing officer Stacy Pool on personalized marketing in the age of COVID-19

Dunkin’ Brands, Noodles & Co. executives on how to hook customers through interactive and entertainment marketing

Dunkin’ Brands vice president of stewardship Drayton Martin and Noodles & Co. chief marketing officer Stacy Pool on personalized marketing in the age of COVID-19

Although much of operators’ marketing energy has been dedicated to communicating with customers about COVID-19 era safety procedures and features in 2020, it’s become just as important to entertain as it is to inform. Drayton Martin, vice president of stewardship for Dunkin’ Brands and Stacey Pool, chief marketing officer for Noodles & Co. discussed entertainment marketing strategies during Thursday’s Restaurants Rise by MUFSO session, “Gamification Marketing.”

Here are some marketing leadership lessons from two big names in the restaurant industry.

Use consumer data to your advantage

The advantage of more COVID-era guests placing digital orders via mobile apps is that restaurant brands can gather data to learn more about what their customers are craving. Don’t pass up that opportunity, Martin and Pool agreed.

“We spent time investigating more guest behaviors than ever before and using customer data to target them more effectively,” Pool said, adding that the result was expanding their digital program to include more personalized perks and rewards via their app. She also said that the pandemic allowed Noodles & Co. to speed up the process of leaning into consumer data.

“What we intended to do over the next year we were instead able to accomplish in a month, and this was extremely helpful in our recovery.”

Martin added that although it’s easy to “drown in data insights” but that the information they’ve pulled from guest behaviors has been critical to how Dunkin’ shapes its digital and menu offerings:

“Our loyalty program reveals that the kind of things people are ordering at different times of the day are important to how we shape future offerings,” Martin said, adding that they will often pressure test offerings to see how they’re resonating with guests.

Lean into the ‘sexy’ features

Of course, the key to having a successful loyalty app is to at first make sure the functionality is seamless, but personalized features keep customers coming back.

“The second layer [of a great app] is what I call the ‘sexy features,’” Pool said. “What you recently ordered, rewards-oriented benefits to gamified challenges that would be meaningful to our customers. All of this can help us understand who you are and how you engage with us.”

Although Martin said that the Dunkin’ app is – much like the brand itself — quick, simple, and accessible, she also noted that they have different features that separate them from other apps, like a donation button where loyal customers can donate to Dunkin’s Joy in Childhood Foundation.

“It’s all about personalization, but we can’t get in your way,” she said.

Know your social media channel

It goes without saying that social media is one of the most important keys at a marketing executive’s disposal but also knowing how and when to use each social media channel is key.

“You need to recognize the nuances of each platform and behave in a native way for that platform,” Martin said. “The way Dunkin’ creates content for TikTok is different than the way we create content for Twitter.”

Dunkin’ jumped on TikTok early on in the social sharing network’s popularity and is currently the most followed quick-service brand on the platform. There, they interact with their younger Gen Z followers, and have even recently started a collaboration with TikTok breakout star Charli D’Ameilo, in which she created her own drink that customers can order.

“Charli really helped us accelerate our growth on there,” Martin said. She said that their audience on Instagram, however, is all about “visual appetite appeal.”

Interact with customers

Content creation does not necessarily have to come from in-house or external PR teams. Both Pool and Martin said that they interact with and often highlight, retweet or re-gram content from brand fans across social media platforms.

“We listen to our fans, jump into conversations with them and even shine the spotlight on them,” Martin said. “We refer to it as ‘sprinkles of fame.’”

Know how to be (and stay) relevant to your demographic

Pool said that since she understands that much of their demographic is older Millennial moms, the company recently launched a campaign hinged on ‘90s nostalgia for their 24th anniversary. Their campaign had cameos with Montel Jordan and Sabrina the Teenage Witch and other hit pieces of pop culture nostalgia from 1995.

“Our core demographic is that Millennial mom and we had a ton of engagement, including the highest number of loyalty program signups,” Pool said. “We continue to see growth in people engaging across every channel. We were able to use those celebrities from 1995 campaigns to leverage success today.”

Title sponsors for MUFSO include the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo Foodservice and Johnsonville Foodservice.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at joanna.fantozzi@informa.com 

Follow her on Twitter: @joannafantozzi

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