On Foodable Insight Series: Marketing Tips From Cici's Pizza and Tijuana Flats

There's more to restaurant success than the ingredients behind a menu. Marketing is the voice of a brand and content marketing, brand development, digital trends, social media strategies, public relations, and local store marketing are all a part of the perfect marketing recipe. Need a little help cooking up some great ideas?

In this "On Foodable Insight Series" episode, join Foodable's Director of Marketing, Chelsea Keenan, as she sits down with two marketing mavens: Chief Marketing Officer of Cici's Pizza, Sarah McAloon, who also formerly served as CMO for Sbarro and Media Director for Pizza Hut, and Tijuana Flats Senior Marketing Manager, Brandy Blackwell.

From National Branding to the Local Sector

"Back when we started in 1995, one of the main focuses for marketing with a limited budget was local store marketing," Blackwell said, mentioning that Tijuana Flats would deliver chips and salsa to local businesses. "That was really the foundation of Tijuana Flats and we realized it worked."

Attending community events spearheaded the brand's presence and eventually allowed them to branch into other platforms of marketing with the same success. While multi-unit chains nationwide tend may spend major attention on a broader scope, it would be beneficial to target small areas for big opportunities. 

"Our mission for CiCi's is to make communities stronger, so local marketing has always been a focus for CiCi's. ...We particularly focus on preachers, teachers, and coaches. That's kind of their mantra. So, we agree. We think local marketing is really important," McAloon said.

Social Media: In-House or Outsourced?

With the digital landscape still being relatively new and vast in comparison to traditional advertising, one of the biggest dilemmas brands face is determining whether to build an in-house social media team or outsource services. In the case of Tijuana Flats, the social media team is in-house to put more control in the brand's hands.

"One of the reasons we feel this is a great benefit for us is that we can really speak with an authentic voice. Our branding is very unique, we're very irreverent, and quite often we push the envelope," Blackwell said.

Marketing Strategy: Now, Wow, Who, and How

McAloon joined the CiCi's team in 2014 and wanted to ensure that the brand had a clear marketing strategy. So, what approach did she and her team come up with? "Now, Wow, Who and How."

"Now" refers to the situation analysis where the brand understands their performance against competitors. "Wow" is a vision of the future, where CiCi's took time to meet with the brand's founding franchisees to understand CiCi's origins and how to empower their consumers to create their dining experience. "Who" is the target audience developed from their segmentation analysis, and the "How" refers to their rebranding.

Watch the full episode to learn more about marketing through rebranding and developing audience involvement.