How Marketing to QSRs Has Changed – QSR Web | Region & Cash

QSR marketing has changed. Yes, there is still television, radio and displays, but local and digital advertising has also become popular.

For as long as any of us can remember, quick service restaurant brands (QSR) have been the mainstay of traditional advertising: television, radio, display and other conventional channels.

However, like so many other companies, the QSR industry has gone digital. This hasn’t replaced traditional advertising, but savvy marketers have created significant digital strategies that are capturing an ever-increasing chunk of the consumer’s attention—and the CMO’s budget.

This reflects broader business and cultural trends – ubiquitous smartphones and connectivity, to cite just one obvious example. It also shows how marketing has changed and continues to evolve – for QSRs.

Let’s look at three ways marketing has evolved in the QSR industry and how marketers are adapting.

Marketing strategies can be more distributed

When you think of your favorite restaurants, they’re just as likely meeting places as places to eat. They are part of the local fabric and culture – and QSRs should not be exceptions.

QSR Corporate has always wanted to get involved locally, but that was difficult with such a large number of deals. If you think of those classic commercials I mentioned, they’re often national or regional in nature – the same in every city or town.

Corporate marketing has not been able to effectively capture the pulse of the local communities in which these restaurants operate. Local owners and franchisees, on the other hand, often don’t have much marketing experience, and corporate headquarters have typically been reluctant to give them creative freedom.

Digital has changed that by allowing QSR chains and franchisees to market specific locations in a way that more resonates with the community vibe we typically associate with restaurants.

We’ve seen the rise of tools and other options to extend the tools you already use to do more local marketing. For QSRs, the parent company can set up guard rails to ensure local operators are compliant with brand guidelines and other policies—while strengthening campaigns around hyper-local moments like a Friday night high school football game or a community event.

This is the QSR version of personalization. It makes the local restaurant a lot more human and connected, and the results will follow. And you don’t even need a ton of data or other upfront requirements. You just need to know the market and have the right platform.

It’s not just digital – it’s digital first

You may not have predicted the QSR industry as a likely candidate for digital transformation, but it has really gone digital at scale in the past few years.

customers expect it. They use the apps, they want to see the menu or order on their devices (often before they even arrive), they want to interact digitally (often without human interaction). Even smaller QSRs are jumping into this trend, and certainly industry leaders like Chick-fil-A have gone digital first.

It offers marketers significant opportunities in terms of engagement, data, and customer experience – apps are becoming opportunities for loyalty programs, hyperlocal marketing, personalization, contextual push offers, and more.

This was one of those “slow-fast” revolutions in the industry. It was dripping, dripping, dripping and then – boom – the digital floodgates opened. If you haven’t already, you need to prioritize the digital customer experience, especially on mobile, as soon as possible.

QSR marketing is no longer entirely under your control

To recap, the industry has gone full digital and marketing across all channels has become more dispersed. And the third change is a mix of both: The broader digital ecosystem — think delivery apps, restaurant review sites, reservation sites, and more — means QSR marketing has spread in ways you can no longer directly control.

Proactive brands and locations may have some control over third-party apps like Grubhub, but not total discretion like they do with their own properties.

So this is an interesting area where marketers need to at least know how to appear in different places that they don’t control and then decide how proactive to be.

The range of choices here is pretty broad, from opting out altogether — but forgoing potentially lucrative revenue streams and customer segments — to diving headlong through promotions, sponsored listings, and so on.

This is simply something QSRs have not had to deal with in the past, but it is a staple of the modern consumer universe. It creates both opportunities and challenges for marketers, so you have to ask yourself: how do we leverage these channels that we don’t control? Where do we invest money? How much time do we devote to things like the images these apps use for our restaurant?

There aren’t always easy answers, in part because it’s a relatively new frontier in the digital-first QSR marketing world. This is another significant change for the industry that your marketing strategy should now consider.

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