(Continued from page 1)

Are you concerned about using new creative to bring that product back this year?

Not if it’s better creative, and if I have anything to say about it, it will be. Fallon is going to bring some fresh thinking and new ideas, but the product is going to be just as good as before.

The product was still consistent with what Arby’s does best: great sandwiches based in great proteins. It’s like at Taco Bell, when we made a Doritos taco shell. It’s one of those no-brainer ideas and you ask why we didn’t do that sooner. We’re trying to find those stories here grounded in our history of high-quality meat, but creating a new story to inspire new customers.

Why did Arby’s choose Fallon to create that story as the new agency of record?

I’m a big believer in consistency of a brand. We have had some great campaigns over the last 10 years that have helped our business continue to be successful, but we’ve lacked a brand voice and positioning that establish Arby’s as a destination in the hearts and minds of today’s heavy-QSR customers. The partnership with Fallon allows us to do that. They presented a brand vision that’s not only creative but also aspirational for our entire organization, and it’ll challenge us from operations through finance and menu to be better.

Quick-service menu development seems split among simplification efforts at Burger King and McDonald’s or a strategy driven by limited-time offerings, like at Wendy’s and presumably at Arby’s. How do you see that landscape?

In the end, your brand has to stand for something. At Taco Bell, their whole campaign around “Live Más” stands for products you wouldn’t have thought up yourself, and Wendy’s is moving toward a premium-burger positioning. McDonald’s challenge, I think, is people don’t know what they stand for because they’re so big with so much breadth and reach but can’t find things to grow with.

Arby’s stands for roast-beef sandwiches, but frankly that’s not enough. Our brand has so much more to offer. We can stand for the best sandwiches in QSR and the best meat in those sandwiches. We can stand for quality in everything we do, in our products and our communications, and we haven’t delivered that as strongly as we’d like over the last couple years. With the Fallon partnership, our service model and restaurant design, we’ll stand for something.

You can bring a lot of innovation and products, but if there isn’t something building a consistent story for your target audience, then consumers don’t know why to come to your restaurant. The brands doing that are the ones that are winning, and that’s what Arby’s is going to do.

How did you get the input and the buy-in of Arby’s franchisee base, which was vocally displeased with your predecessor before he resigned?

I can’t speak to what happened in the past, but what I can say about the present and future is that I came into this relationship with the Arby’s Franchise Association with the intent of building this business together. It’s all grounded in respect. A lot of these franchisees have been in the system for a long time, they’re independent and entrepreneurial, and I respect that. When they have a point of view, the first thing to do is to listen.

This entire review process has been a completely collaborative partnership. The franchisees were not just invited and didn’t just attend all our meetings with agencies; they contributed and added value because they could speak to things I couldn’t, namely the heritage of the brand. … I listened to what they thought we should do, and they’re 100 percent on board. I’m very bullish on us doing great things together.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN