In its quest to reinvent fast food and unsettle fast food giants like McDonald’s, a smaller marketing budget isn’t a hindrance for Lara Thom, CMO of Guzman y Gomez.

“I’m obviously competing with brands that have a lot more money than me. In my role, I operate better when I have less money,” Thom told Which-50.

“I like challenging our team to be agile and think differently. It is very easy to be lazy when you’ve got a lot of money.”

Thom says big media buys “can shift the dial regardless of the message” but her team has a different mindset, with a marketing strategy underpinned by social media.

“As a brand in digital, you’ve got to be agile. Just as soon as my team are getting comfortable, I change it,” Thom said.

“[We know] even though this works now, our consumers will start getting bored of it… so we need to change it up.”

The first thing Thom did when she was appointed CMO of Guzman y Gomez 18 months ago was cut all traditional advertising spend. No more taxi backs, buses or flyers.

Instead, working alongside the chief digital officer, the CMO worked on leveraging the mobile and the brand’s extensive social media following.

“I’m a digital native so I knew I could make digital work and I also knew that’s where eyeballs were going… I think sometimes you’ve got to make a hard cut.”

The brand has since gone back to traditional media, most notably with a $1 million ‘Food Stories’ out of home campaign, but it plays a supporting role in the overall strategy, led by digital.

“Our highest selling day we sold 185,000 burritos in a day. That was such a big number we wanted to find a really big way to explain it,” she said.

“It was enormously successful, but digital still led that campaign. I think we just bolstered it at a time when we had some great messaging.

“Out of home is such a specific medium that you can really miss the mark,” Thom said. “It’s not a matter a ticking a box, we had the right campaign for that medium at the time.”

At the broadest level the Guzman y Gomez’s marketing strategy is a to tell stories happening inside the business.

“We don’t operate in isolation we blow up what the business is doing. So that makes everything authentic and it makes it really easy.”

“Our digital strategy is one where we document things, we don’t create. So we document what happens in the business as opposed to creating campaigns that gain eyeballs. Because of that we have a really robust strategy at the core of the business.”

Storytelling is easy when your company mission is to “reinvent fast food,” which involves participating in commercial drone delivery trials. Thom argues burritos being delivered by drone isn’t a marketing stunt and, alongside Alphabet’s X, there’s a real commercial model for it.

“We try not to be gimmicky, we don’t do stunts. Even with our drones,” Thom said.

Thom argues the once the broader business strategy is there her job is to tell the story.

Never forget the guac

From a channel point of view Guzman y Gomez is social-first. That involves “an enormous amount of listening and discussions” with its guests.

The company spent 18 months developing its brand voice, down to figuring out what words it uses, how to respond to people and is it ok to be wrong. In particular when someone doesn’t get their guacamole.

“People pay $2 for our guacamole. It’s the biggest thing in our business to work for our crew is just – don’t forget the guac. But when we do, and somebody lets us know on Facebook we are so apologetic in a very genuine matter.”

“To be able to say sorry when you fuck up is such a powerful thing because customers forgive you, but they love that raw honesty.”

Thom is also responsible for Guzman y Gomez’s customer service team, which she says will “probably move to a more cohesive title of customer marketing team”.

She describes the position as one of the most important roles in the company, which has a direct line into the founder and global CEO Steven Marks.

“In most businesses if you look at the vertical and the way that business is structured customer service is at the bottom. They are the people stuck in the corner with headsets, in our business it pretty much goes CEO and founder, leadership team, then customer service,” Thom said.

Previous post

Video: Start with the problem not the technology

Next post

ADMA, AADL announce executive appointments

Join the digital transformation discussion and sign up for the Which-50 Irregular Insights newsletter.