Steve Robinson started the entire marketing department of Chick-fil-A in 1981-2015. Working alongside founder Truett Cathy, today the company is the 3rd most profitable fast-food restaurant in the USA.
Steve recalls their growth strategy, why their operators function much differently than traditional fast-food restaurants, and we talk about where the whole anti-beef cow Eat Mor Chikin marketing strategy.
Steve Robinson Background
Throughout his 34 year tenure at Chick-fil-A, Robinson grew the company from 184 stores in 1981, pulling in $100 million in annual sales to more than 2,100 stores in 2015 pulling in more than $6.8 billion in annual sales. As Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Robinson had the privilege of growing one of the most loved brands of our time.
We discussed the Chick-fil-A operator franchise model and how it varies from traditional fast-food restaurants, and how founder Truett Cathy identified a way to effectively replicate himself, giving every store a hands-on leadership approach. This approach is also highly rewarding for store operators.
Robinson also explained why each store has its own marketing director, and how each store is empowered to make its own marketing decisions and connect with the community. Corporate marketing supports national objectives, but stores connect to their own communities through marketing objectives led by one individual (or more) in each store.
The Eat Mor Chikin Cow Campaign
I asked Robinson about their unique “Eat Mor Chikin” cow campaign and how the idea came to be. Plus, he explained why they didn’t follow the traditional RFP process to find a great partner agency. Instead, they did their own research on who would fit best, and approached only three agencies, paying them for their pitch work. For those in the marketing space, this is unusual but certainly refreshing.
I also asked Robinson about a major mistake that cost the company $2 million dollars, and how that one mistake may very well be partly responsible for their success today.
Buy Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows, and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand by Steve Robinson.
More Iconic Leaders
If you enjoyed this podcast with Steve Robinson, you’d also enjoy my interview with Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, or Blake Irving CEO of GoDaddy.