“A lot of businesses are marketing by spreadsheet, taking focus group insights and producing ads that speak to those. Where is the creativity? Where’s the storytelling and connection with the audience?”
Guzman y Gomez’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Lara Thom has never been one to toe the line of marketing orthodoxy. But that may be a reason why the Aussie-born Mexican restaurant chain continues to buck the trend in its category and expand its business in the face of some hefty market forces.
Thom’s philosophy is simple - marketing has to drive real business results.
She explains: “I've never run a brand campaign that hasn't generated exceptional sales results. I think great marketers are happy to own the sales function, because they back themselves and say ‘What I do contributes sales to the business.”
To generate continued success as a brand you need to be where your audiences are, which is something Guzman y Gomez has excelled at over the past seven years under Thom, who has made it a “policy” to be early testers of emerging platforms and formats in a quest to get that first mover advantage.
"We got involved with TikTok very early on, when it was just hitting the mainstream,” says Thom. “There are many platforms that work for us, but when we hit the TikTok button, it worked, particularly in terms of driving sales. That was when I knew TikTok would become a regular piece of advertising inventory, not just at a campaign level, but on an always on basis.
“The numbers we were generating were quite hard to believe in the beginning, I actually had to go and check they were true. The proof is in the pudding in terms of reach and impressions, and the value for money represented in the very early days was really strong for us.”
With so many platforms in play it can be hard for marketers, particularly busy CMOs, to keep up with them, but for Thom, it is non-negotiable to be hands on. “I truly believe you can't use a channel as a marketer unless you're a user of the channel,” she explains.
“Understanding TikTok and why it's so sticky is probably the most important thing for me.”
So, what has Thom learned from her professional and personal use of the platform?
“I think the best thing that TikTok has done is, whilst there are creators on the platform, they have very much positioned themselves as an entertainment platform rather than a social media platform. That means there is a new wave of creators creating content for entertainment which is one of the stickiest parts.
“It's like television 3.0 in my opinion. It’s the only digital platform that you can't double screen, you can't do anything else, because it's a sound on platform. So you have 100% of that person's attention.”
Indeed it has been so powerful that Thom says they now start with TikTok as the first pillar for many campaigns and iterate to other channels outside of that: “There's more people on TikTok everyday than there are people watching the NRL or State of Origin Grand Final. To be honest, it's an eyeballs play. It's definitely our most mainstream form of media at the moment.”
She cites this year’s ‘Did You Know’ campaign as an example of this strategy, where the team developed 60 short TikToks based on unique facts which set the business apart from competitors, which were then translated to other media like radio ads.
The importance placed on the platform shows through the fact Guzman y Gomez has hired a TikTok creator in-house.
“That isn’t something we’ve done for any other platform,” she says. “But I'm not going to hire a graphic designer to be a video editor, right? They're completely different skill sets. When you look at the complexities in the science around TikTok you have probably 1.2 seconds to get someone to watch your video. You have to be so engaging from the very beginning, you have to almost be in someone's face so that they stop in their tracks.”
Whilst Guzman y Gomez has the advantage of being a brand born in the digital era, Thom says there are basic things any brand can do to make the platform work for them.
“TikTok is merely a platform for any type of content you want to produce. It doesn't always have to be gritty and real and shot on an iPhone. You can still have really high production values, but be entertaining. All brands can be entertaining and still sit within brand guidelines.
“I think you have to challenge yourselves and say ‘there is a component of this campaign that can live on TikTok. We might not have the beautiful product shot plus the three words for the tagline, but that tagline may permeate itself in a completely different form on TikTok, and have way more cut through.
“Reach and impressions and the number of times you hit someone with your brand is still important. But you don't have to take the brand out of it. You can still be true to your brand. It's challenging because it's making us think differently.”
Thom has some relatively simple means of understanding success, the first being feedback. She explains: “We’re a mass market brand, our target is pretty much everyone, so if I'm hearing noise about our ads, and it's reverberating back to me, I know it's hitting the mark. If I'm putting ads out there and people aren't talking about it, it's not working.
“I was in a restaurant the other day and a manager said to me ‘whenever we have a TikTok top ad, I know it’s going to be a busy day’. It has become that clear to our franchisees.”
But there is also a sophisticated performance and data element to understand what is working, with Thom’s team looking at real-time sales data to understand what needs to be done. “If we have a quiet lunchtime, my team is moving money around the internet by 2pm,” she says.
Having made big bets on TikTok to date, is Thom bullish it will endure where many other platforms have fallen away?
She explains: “It's typically the younger kids who find the platform and bring it into mass market awareness, then it's the millennials and Gen Xers who adopt it. And by the time your grandparents are working it out, everyone's moved on to the next big thing. That has happened in social apps.
“It's really interesting how different TikTok is, and that's why it might just hang around. There's something for everyone there. It's made the world a much smaller place for those who have certain interests. It's gonna be fascinating to see how content is produced and made in the future.”
To learn more about how TikTok is the platform for entertainment that drives business impact, join industry experts and TikTok insiders at #ForYou Summit Australia on September 19! Register now: https://bit.ly/FYSAustralia
Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at email@example.com