Drew Neisser: Better Ingredients, Better Marketing. Q+A with Papa John’s CMO Bob Kraut

The exec discusses why customer experience is key at the pizza chain, which always ‘keeps its eye on the pie’

Despite the obvious benefits, keeping things simple is a lot harder than it sounds, especially when it comes to marketing. What with big data, storytelling, social engagement, customer centricity, employee advocacy and programmatic among the myriad of other trending considerations, it’s a wonder every marketer isn’t mired in a mind-numbing cloud of indecision.

This is definitely not the case for Papa John’s CMO Bob Kraut. As you will see in the interview below, Bob and the company he works for, stay focused on the basics starting first with product quality, delivering a satisfying customer experience via happy employees and topping it off with consistency of message. These ingredients, though not nearly as fresh as Papa John’s acclaimed cheese, do indeed make for better marketing, thus helping to explain Bob’s recent CMO Award from The CMO Club.

Customer experience does not always come under the control of the CMO yet can have a dramatic impact on the brand and ultimately the believability of your marketing initiatives. How have you been able to impact the customer experience in your current role?

For us, the consumer is at the center of all we do. We always “keep our eye on the pie”, so that the ultimate customer experience is bringing people together to eat great pizza at a great price with an exceptional ordering and service experience. As for marketing’s role in the customer experience, we do the heaving lifting in creating emotional connections with our customers in our branding, online experience and social media and engagement. The pizza business is dominated by heavy price promotion, which I don’t think contributes to a sustainable customer proposition. At Papa John’s, we have incredibly loyal customers and they love the brand experience– the American Customer Satisfaction Index has ranked us the #1 pizza brand in satisfaction 13 of the past 15 years.

A lot of marketers are talking about employee advocacy – is this a priority for you and if so how are you going about it?

When I came to Papa John’s a little over a year ago, my biggest surprise was how happy the people are and how aligned people are against our vision and positioning. Simply put, when you are in the service and delivery business, “happy employees equal happy customers”. So I think we count all of them to be great customer ambassadors. One of the ways that our employees feel like an owner of the business, is through our “open innovation” culture. We solicit and source product ideas and ways to make things better for our customers and I think it shows up in customer ratings and in our business results.

papajohns

“Better ingredients. Better pizza.” has been your tagline for a while now. A lot of marketers of change campaigns too quickly in my humble opinion. What has allowed you to stick with this one for so long and what would inspire you to move away from it?

Papa John’s has done what is equivalent to the textbook case on how to build a brand based on quality and consistency. Quality is the core value of the company–I think its in our DNA and has given the company the strength to resist changes over the ups and downs of the business cycle.  And I think its a testament to the leadership of our Founder, John Schnatter–great leaders have discipline. “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza” continues to work well for us–I am type of leader that doesn’t try to fix things that aren’t broken–but I think we are making progress in enriching our brand promise and injecting a more contemporary currency to the brand.

How have you used social media to advance your brand’s overall marketing efforts?

We use social media to talk to our brand believers and to reach broader audiences in ways that are authentic, real-time and meaningful to them. Pizza is the perfect platform for social media–at its core, pizza bring people together  as social platforms virtually. In 2014, we greatly expanded our social reach beyond Facebook and Twitter–we are now active on Instagram, Google Plus, Vine, the publisher platforms etc–and we have taken our highly visible NFL sponsorship into social media, especially on local level–where we sponsor 21 NFL teams.

What have your experiences been with mobile marketing been to date? 
We run an e-commerce with nearly 50% of sales coming from online–so we have a greater share of customers accessing our brand online than any other pizza brand-that kind of us makes the #1 digital brand.  An increasing share of our sales is coming from mobile so we have increased our investment in all-things mobile –advertising, apps, alternative payment and localization. And we are seeing all these initiatives work well for Papa John’s.

PAPA JOHN'S PIZZA Box Papa Rewards Free Pizza Papa John's Pizza Delivery Store

Can you talk a bit about Papa Rewards and how it is working for you?

We introduced our Papa Rewards Loyalty Program in 2010. The pizza market is so price sensitive and this creates a relationship and another point of connectivity to our most loyal consumers and gives us opportunities for segmentation and more precise marketing. Our customers love the program–Papa Rewards was recently named as the #1 loyalty in the restaurant category by Bond Loyalty. With that said, loyalty programs alone won’t work if the pizza isn’t good. We know our customers come back for our better ingredients and attention to quality – and it is important to us to reward them for their loyalty.

Finally, what’s on top of your 2015 marketing resolutions list?

That’s easy– “eat more pizza!”  But seriously…  we love to top our best.  We’re committed to continuing our commitment to have better ingredient on our pizzas, leadership in online sales and deepening relationships with our customers, partners and employees.

Drew Neisser, who got his career started at the likes of  JWT and Chiat/Day, is the founder of Renegade. For more interviews with award-winning CMO’s, be sure to visit TheDrewBlog

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