INTERVIEW WITH AN AMBITIOUS MARKETER. VOLUME 7
Georgia Margeson / Senior Director, Advertising at Church’s Chicken
During her career spanning almost 13 years at Church’s Chicken®, Georgia plans and manages the execution of all creative to drive profitable sales and traffic, enhance the Church’s brand, and improve the overall effectiveness of marketing communications. Georgia manages relationships with AOR, merchandising agencies and print production vendors, internal resources, and other third-party relationships that support overall brand initiatives.
Founded in 1952, Church’s Chicken is an American chain of fast food restaurants specializing in fried chicken, also trading outside North America as Texas Chicken™. There are currently over 1,500 units globally.
Digitent: Well, this sounds like a big job, sounds like you’ve got your hands in a little bit of everything.
Georgia: It is, but I have some really strong business partners helping me. So, I can’t take a lot of the credit myself. I act as the brand ambassador, give them good direction, and then they come back with excellent assets for us to go to market with.
Digitent: So, do you feel like ambition has played a role in your journey to becoming the marketing leader that you are now?
Georgia: Well, that’s a great question David, and I really do appreciate that. I’ll tell you that I’ve always had a strong work ethic and a desire to achieve, but as I think back on when I became a single mother in my early 30s and had two young children to raise, I think that desire became even stronger. Of course, you know it was hard when they were young, and they saw all of their friends with stay-at-home moms and moms that would come to school with cookies and volunteer all of the time. I couldn’t do all of that. But now that they’re adults, they’re really proud of me and they appreciate that I have a career so it’s rewarding in that respect.
Digitent: Well, yeah, that really puts a strong illustration on that concept of ambition. That’s an amazing accomplishment to juggle all that all the time. I’m just amazed at how you can have both oars in the water at all times because you have to be great at both things.
Georgia: Yeah, I mean, I look back now and think, “how in the world did I make all of that happen?” But I made it happen and now they are two lovely adult children. One just graduated from college and one is a rising sophomore. I am really happy now to be an empty nester and still enjoy my career, but without some of the pressures that I had years ago.
Digitent: Absolutely, from the standpoint of Church’s and how you see ambition playing a role in your marketing organization – what sort of ambitions do you face on a day-to-day basis? And how do you plan to reach those goals?
Georgia: I think that I would consider myself an ambitious marketer. I’ve always had an innate desire to drive to the next level by challenging myself and really forcing myself out of my comfort zone. So, for me, it’s really just a constant goal of reaching for the next level. I think that all I can do right now is to continue to push myself – but also, something that I learned a long time ago was that you really need to let your Senior Management and leaders know if you want to grow. Another aspect that drives me is the desire to stay ahead of trends. If you do the same thing too long, it just isn’t challenging. And you know, it’s interesting because when I started at Church’s 13 years ago the whole marketing arena was quite different. I’ve had to push myself outside my comfort zone to learn social media, digital platforms and how mobile apps work.
Digitent: One of the questions was about ambition as teachable. Do you look to surround yourself with ambitious people or ambitious organizations?
Georgia: I don’t really know that ambition is teachable. You’d like for it to be, but in my opinion, a desirable characteristic, whether you’re looking to hire someone or looking to hire an agency, is to make sure that the team that services your business has at least an element of ambition. I like to think I push my team members to grow and move outside their comfort zones. But you know, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I will say that when I notice that spark of ambition in a person, I definitely want to cultivate it.
Digitent: Do you feel that ambition helps you to not have to push people? How does ambition play in that?
Georgia: I think that it’s like playing tennis. When you play with someone who is better than you, you end up playing a little bit better. So, when you work with someone who’s got the same level of ambition, you play off each other really well.
Digitent: What advice would you give to a young rising marketer, in an organization or at an agency, with regard to ambition? How do you see that playing into their career path?
Georgia: Well the first advice I would give would be for them to find a mentor and ask that mentor for coaching. I think that’s the quickest way to grow. A lot of new professionals starting out think that they know everything and I think it’s the ones that ask for help and advice that really grow more quickly. And then, I’d also advise them to be patient because it takes a lot of hard work and putting your head down and just learning the business.
Digitent: As you travel through the storyline of ambition, assuming that you have ambitious goals for your marketing organization, how do you measure success? Is it data analytics? Is it sales revenue? Same-store traffic? How do you typically see that you’re achieving?
Georgia: We’re definitely a sales driven organization. And we use same-store sales as a key measurement. But, different sorts of analytics are used and applied to different areas. For example, I lead all the advertising, so we use metrics to measure our TV ads to see how our guests respond, whether it be in ad recall, purchase intent or likability, etc.
Digitent: For you and Church’s overall, what would you say are the challenges that you’re facing today? Is there anything trending or new that you’re having to deal with that you didn’t expect?
Georgia: There are always challenges out there in the marketplace. One that we’ve recently had to deal with is the raising of the minimum wage. That’s been a challenge for a lot of our franchisees and for us in our company-owned restaurants as well. Additionally, the labor market is very competitive and finding the right talent has become increasingly difficult. Also, we’re very affected by macro impacts, such as the government shutdown that happened earlier this year.
Digitent: You mentioned print and TV, the traditional channels. Do you find yourself leaning into more digital channels and mobile today?
Georgia: Yes. Absolutely. We’ve got to keep in touch with our guests, especially the younger guests who are moving away from watching TV. We recently expanded our marketing team by hiring a VP of Digital Marketing. That was a definite step up for our marketing team, having him on board and executing all our off-premise avenues such as online ordering and delivery. If you don’t step into those territories, you are going to be left behind. Most of our restaurants are delivering with a third-party, and we’re hoping to have online ordering up and running in most of our restaurants by the end of the year.
Digitent: Are you building stores or are you focused on specific markets as far as expansion or how do you describe the ambitions of the brand?
Georgia: Yes, we’re always opening new restaurants and we’re onboarding new franchisees. Both have been our focus for the last several years and we’ve been able to attract some really key players in the franchise arena.
Digitent: What’s the primary growth country outside the US, just out of curiosity?
Georgia: Well, outside of the continental U.S., we have probably the most concentrated number of restaurants in Puerto Rico. There are over 100 restaurants there now. We also have almost 100 restaurants in Mexico and 60 in Indonesia, among other countries. But we’re looking into other areas. We just signed an agreement with a franchisee to open restaurants in Africa. So that’s really exciting. That would be our first step onto that continent.