Dick Lynch was jazzed to join Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in 2008 as chief marketing officer, even though it meant giving up his GO LLC consulting firm, which he founded after decades working at advertising agency Campbell Mithun. The brand’s Louisiana heritage, he said, made it “a rocket ship waiting to be launched,” and the chance to draw upon the flavors and traditions of the region provided Popeyes with the “guard rails” to focus menu development and advertising strategy.
Lynch’s efforts contributed to same-store-sales increases of 2.5 percent and 3 percent in fiscal 2010 and 2011, respectively, and Popeyes’ comparable-store sales are running 8.2 percent higher than a year earlier through the first half of 2012. He was promoted to chief global brand officer last December.
HOMETOWN: Burlington, Wis.
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: founded GO LLC, which developed brand strategies for Burger King, Ruby Tuesday and Buffalo Wild Wings; held executive creative roles at TracyLocke, Ketchum and Campbell Mithun, where he led advertising strategy for Domino’s Pizza
PERSONAL: married, two children
How did your advertising-agency experience help when you began working on the other side at Popeyes?
It was very pertinent. I spent a fair amount of my early career leading strategic planning at Campbell Mithun, which is the discipline in the agency that’s responsible for creating very insightful positioning for brands. It’s critical before you let the creative team loose to create an ad that they understand what we want the brand to stand for over time and what this ad is supposed to do in the context of the bigger question.
I joined the company 4 1/2 years ago, and when I learned more about Popeyes, I got excited. There wasn’t anything like it because there was no other QSR that was differentiated by a Louisiana heritage.
What has the marketing’s contribution been to Popeyes’ run of same-store-sales success?
In marketing, “prolific” has been the word for it. But it hasn’t been random. We’ve been productive because we have such a tight lens through which to produce our product pipeline, our advertising and our social media, and it all goes back to Louisiana. Marketing best practices always harden around a positioning. Now we’re Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and we have a higher-quality design in red and orange. The menu has been particularly robust.
What fueled this was rolling all marketing up to one agency, GSD&M, which created Annie, our powerful spokesperson for the brand. Every [demographic marketing area] in the past would do spot TV with their own marketing calendars, but we thought there would be more bang for the buck with a national strategy. Now we’re layering on with digital programs and a redesigned website.
Is your job to build traffic, average check or both?
We are almost obsessive about traffic here. We do it with a lot of news and menu innovation and food our guests have never thought of before. We look for ways to build check, but not through pricing. We reintroduced Cane Sweeeet [Peach Iced] Tea, and our beverage sales went up 10 percent and were more profitable for our franchisees. Our Summer of Peach promotion really built check, particularly the Southern Peach Pie because people don’t typically see that kind of dessert in QSR.
What new marketing tactics or strategies interest you most right now?
The marketing strategy we’re using now is hugely successful, and we don’t see any hint of wear-out. That said, our new freestanding restaurants are being built at a pace second only to McDonald’s, and we’re on record saying that their average unit volume is 36 percent higher. So we have a tremendous opportunity in growing new restaurants, and I’m spending much of my time with that and our significant opportunities internationally.
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