Jack in the Box Inc., based in San Diego, is a restaurant company that operates and franchises Jack in the Box restaurants, one of the nation’s largest hamburger chains, with more than 2,250 restaurants in 21 states. In an in-depth interview with ANA, Adrienne Ingoldt, SVP and chief brand and experience officer at Jack in the Box and member of the ANA’s Global CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19, talked about how the company has updated its marketing to keep customers and franchisees engaged.
1. What is the issue that’s most pressing to you right now?
I’m very focused on how we serve our guests, keeping their safety and the safety of our employees as a priority. Initially, we concentrated on messaging about contactless delivery options, like our mobile app, delivery, and drive-throughs, and outfitting our restaurants with the right protocols and protective materials. Now, while safety remains top of mind, our focus has shifted to our reopening strategy, working with franchisees and drafting new procedures so we’re ready when the timing is right.
For instance, our largest markets are in Texas where stores can open, and in California where they can’t, so we’re taking a wait-and-see approach. We are giving our franchisees and company operators the tools they need to be successful if and when they choose to reopen dining rooms. They will do so based on their local ordinances and learnings from those around them.
2. What behaviors have shifted from consumers? How has your company adjusted? What will persist in our “new normal”?
At the beginning of the pandemic, consumers turned to snacking to feel comforted, and started cooking more at home. When that behavior eased, we sought to encourage consumers to order our really comforting, indulgent food through contactless pickup, delivery, or drive-through.
There’s been a shift away from real-world experiences to digital content. We changed our media and marketing in the same way — increasing spend on streaming channels and spending less on out-of-home. We’ve shifted our messaging to tell guests we’re open and here to serve them safely.
As consumers think about returning to normal life, some of these new behaviors will linger. Consumers want to feel a sense of normalcy and social connection, and that’s what we do really well. We were already shifting to digital-led engagement before COVID-19 and are now creating virtual experiences to allow consumers to come together. Creative advertising is shifting to be more in touch.
3. Are you doing any brand-building advertising?
From a messaging perspective, we’ve spent more on person-to-person brand-building recently. We want to show we are a safe option, with benefits like tamperproof seals on delivery packaging, and our paid media reflects these messages. We have seen new folks embrace the mobile app, and once the behavior is built, I believe their use of that channel will continue. We continue to support our brand equities of offering a variety of food, good late-night options, and everything on our menu being available all day.
4. Have you been able to innovate, refine processes, or drive fresh creative ideas during this time?
We enhanced internal communication between executive leadership and franchises, creating a task force setting to focus on the customer experience. We also have been able to establish a new creative approach to leverage resourcefulness to be more nimble. We saw an opportunity to evolve and provide something to our guests in terms of content.
Our social campaign #stayinthebox launched in March, celebrating those who are social distancing and staying safe at home. We’re offering free delivery, virtual experiences, new content, and new digital content to keep our fans engaged in a relevant and authentic way.
As part of the initiative, we created a virtual prom called #prominthebox. Prom is such a pivotal moment in high school, so we wanted to give those customers some joy based in music and culture by un-cancelling this important moment. We partnered with 1-800-Flowers, Black Tux, and Lulus for prom essentials, as well as two famous DJs and two L.A. high schools. It’s about brand love and relevance — we want to show our customers that we stand with them in solidarity.
5. What type of information/data is most lacking right now that would help you do your job more effectively?
There is so much information available that it’s important to be able to weed through the data and decipher it to guide next steps. We have a lot of insights from franchisees from constant communication with them, as they are on the front lines of serving our guests. Our internal brand and consumer insights teams are in constant communication, and the collaborative spirit and nimbleness is serving the brand well.
Also, I’ve observed a powerful transition in the progressive expansion of the CMO role, as brands think more “consumer in” rather than “brand out.” The marketing lead is not only responsible for the consumer experience of the brand but the business performance, including stake in operational initiatives, supply chain implications, and HR efforts. Executive leadership teams can navigate the new world together to figure out for what’s best for their consumers. We need to think about what people need most right now, and work together to provide that across our business. During a crisis, brand loyalty is even stronger.
6. Finish this sentence – as an industry, we can emerge from this crisis stronger than before if we all…
Continue to keep communication lines open. It’s been so refreshing to see CMOs sharing ideas and challenges together through the ANA CMO Leadership Coalition on COVID-19 calls. Hearing from peers without worrying about sharing proprietary information has been encouraging, and I would love to see that continue.