Agencies are only as good as the directions you give them, and client-agency relationships are much more likely to succeed if you set clear expectations and ground rules from the beginning. However, at the same time, you should also give your agency the space to be creative and innovative.
In this episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast, our host Daniel Weiner welcomes Sergio Pérez, the senior director of Omnichannel at Bojangles. They talk about the essential skills you should look for in an agency (especially within the food industry), how to allow for creativity, and how a client-agency relationship is similar to marriage.
💡 Name: Sergio Pérez -- Senior Director of Omnichannel at Bojangles.
💡 Noteworthy: Sergio is an innovative marketer who drives results by launching best-in-class digital platforms and developing strategies that drive sales. In his role, he is focused on redefining the way Bojangles’ customers experience, engage, and purchase by digitally transforming and modernizing the brand. In 2022, Sergio was named on QSR Magazine's "35 Young Leaders to Watch" list. Prior to Bojangles, he worked at Church's Chicken, Johnny Rockets, Huddle House, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, and Garden Fresh Restaurants.
💡 Where to find Sergio: LinkedIn
⚡Having industry knowledge is essential for agencies working in the food industry. Industry experience is not a must in every industry, but when it comes to the restaurant field, agencies need to know the ins and outs of it. Sergio says, "Having agencies that understand the complexities and the intricacies of the business is critical because, one, it enables us to move quickly, and it gives us a competitive advantage in terms of speed to be able to make better decisions for restaurants and restaurant brands versus having to spend an awful lot of time teaching an agency how business works, the impact that operations has on the business, so on and so forth."
⚡Set clear expectations with your agency but allow for creativity. While clear directions are key to a successful client-agency collaboration, you should still allow your partner to be creative and innovative. Sergio explains, "I've always believed that agencies are only as good as the direction you give them. For us, the responsibility from a client perspective is to make sure that we're giving very clear direction in terms of what are our objectives and what are our goals. What is the problem that we're trying to solve? But also balance that with giving an agency room to think and to be creative and to do their work. So what I've found to be the most successful in working with agencies is establishing really clear expectations, really clear guidelines because you get closer to delivering the result."
⚡Client-agency relationships are a lot like a marriage. A client-agency relationship is about trust, belief, and communication, just like a marriage. Sergio explains this metaphor, "The way I would describe it is: agency-client relationships are a little bit like a marriage. You're in it together in health and in illness. But I do believe that, similar to a marriage, there's a point where I think one or the other partner feels like it might be over, and it might be time to get a divorce, if you will. And because our relationship with agencies is, one, a partnership and us being transparent and them having a seat at the table, it becomes very evident at some point when it's time to move on."
YouShouldTalkTo - Sergio Pérez
[00:00:00] Sergio Pérez: Agencies are only as good as the direction you give them. And, you know, for us, the responsibility from a client perspective is to make sure that we're giving very clear direction in terms of what are our objectives, what are our goals, what is the problem that we're trying to solve for? But also balance that with giving an agency room to think and to be creative and to do their work.
[00:00:24] Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast. I am Daniel Weiner, your host, as well as sponsor, and YouShouldTalkTo pairs brands and marketers, for free, with vetted agencies and, or freelancers because finding great agencies is a pain in the ass.
[00:01:18] Super excited to be joined today by Sergio Perez, who is Senior Director of Omnichannel Marketing at Bojangles. I would feel remiss to not say, as of right now, it is Bo Time! Sergio, thank you for joining us.
[00:01:31] Sergio Pérez: It's Bo Time indeed, uh, I appreciate the time, and I appreciate you having me today.
[00:01:35] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, let's, uh, let's jump in. What is an unpopular opinion you have in the marketing world or a hot take of sorts? You've been in this world for, uh, a long time now.
[00:01:45] Sergio Pérez: For sure. I, I think you're, you're hearing a lot about this in this space right now, but I, I would say, my hot take for 2023, if you will, is that I'm not convinced, say AI and automation and sort of all the hype in terms of really replacing that human connection and feeling, I mean, I think there's, like I said, a lot of chatter around, you know, it's might be replacing functions or specific tasks, and I think as marketers we really should look at these tools sort of in, in two ways,
[00:02:14] I think sort of in the short term as maybe a way for us to become more efficient in some of the TaskRabbit things that we gotta do. And then, maybe over the longer term, leveraging AI and automation as a way to become smarter to accelerate growth.
[00:02:30] But I think there's a lot of sort of fear, if you will, that these tools might be taking over the world, and while I think that might be a case at some point, I think in the short term, it might not be, you know, too much hype over, over those two things.
[00:02:44] Daniel Weiner: I actually agree with your hot take there. I, I'm not as bullish on ChatGPT, and in that world, at least, uh, I think AI is amazing, and to your point, there's definitely applications and, from a marketing perspective, probably makes, uh, certain things easier or, uh, you know, a first pass at certain things from a copy perspective.
[00:03:02] But yeah, I'll be interested to see, uh, I also, like, the last 10 times I've tried playing with it, it's been, uh, full, and I haven't been able to access it, so.
[00:03:09] Sergio Pérez: I will say that I wish I had that in college, to say, tell me the history of, you know, chick, creating chicken sandwiches, and it will give me a very short summary of what I would need for, you know, some sort of paper or exam, but, uh, you know, I wish this was, uh, a few years ago.
[00:03:25] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, now I'm with you. It probably would've made college a lot easier for, uh, many of us, many of us marketers, you know?
[00:03:30] Sergio Pérez: For sure.
[00:03:31] Daniel Weiner: But you've worked in food most of your career. Tell us a little bit about the journey to get here and kind of what you've learned along the way.
[00:03:37] Sergio Pérez: Yeah. So, I, I will take you way, way back. I didn't realize it at the time, but I realize it now that really kind of my, my career or my learnings began, I think, in my mother's kitchen, and that might sound a bit romantic, but what big in that kitchen really made me realize was sort of the importance of food, the importance of sort of doing things the right way and, you know, putting a little bit of love and care and craft into the food.
[00:04:06] And, you know, I was sort of fortunate enough to grow up in a family that actually operate at restaurants. So, I, uh, you know, cleaned tables, I, you know, sort of saw what it was like to, you know, be a franchisee. And it just really gave me an appreciation for the fact that we have a responsibility as sort of restaurant people to deliver meaningful experiences to people.
[00:04:29] Sergio Pérez: You know, you can sort of think about a moment in which you were either very hungry, and you showed up to a restaurant and, you know, food took too long, or you had cold food or the incorrect order, it has a way to almost be a little bit soul-crushing, right? But if you do it right, if you've got great service, if you've got good food, it almost creates a moment for you to engage with the people you're around in a more meaningful way.
[00:04:53] So, it sort of gave me generally an appreciation for food and sort of the craft of the food. I think, you know, fast forwarding, you know, into my career, I would say that, you know, the headline and those learnings really have led me to really, you know, leading digital transformations for iconic brands.
[00:05:12] You know, I've had the fortune of working across a sort of a broad spectrum of different restaurant brands. So, started my career in QSR with Church's Chicken, uh, moved over to fast-casual with Johnny Rockets in California, worked down in Buffet in San Diego with, uh, Garden Fresh Restaurants, came to Atlanta
[00:05:32] for family dining with Huddle House and Perkins, and I am back both where I started with, uh, fried chicken and QSR at Bojangles. But I think the couple of things that I would say the big truths, if you will, that have been constant through both my experience in growing up in restaurants and my experience in, you know, leading those digital transformations of brands is that, I think first and foremost, restaurants are not created equal,
[00:05:57] Sergio Pérez: I think there's a sense that because you are a national brand or a regional brand that you see the brand logo, and the experience is the same. I think every single community is made up by different individuals and different people and different employees. So, you really need to lean into, you know, personalization and really localizing the experience as much as possible to be able to, you know, really make a meaningful
[00:06:22] connection to those communities to drive as much, you know, results in terms of, you know, sales-driven and community building. The second might be a bit of a hot take, particularly for my operations colleagues, but marketing can’t solve for a bad restaurant experience or bad operations,
[00:06:41] you know, it doesn't matter how brilliant your marketing campaign is, it doesn't, uh, matter how much you're spending from an advertising standpoint, if food's not hot, food's not accurate, if you don't have good service, uh, you're not going to be able to drive a repeat visit. So, it all starts with, uh, the basics of driving a good experience and allowing marketing to sort of amplify that great work that, you know, our restaurants are, are doing.
[00:07:06] Sergio Pérez: And I would say the, the third, you know, big truth is, in order for you to sort of breakthrough and really make a meaningful impact, you've gotta find the cross-section between, you know, food, culture, and people to really find those moments and those places in which people are engaging, to be able to deliver
[00:07:27] either content, messaging, advertising, or whatever it is that you do to communicate with your users, to really drive, I think a meaningful experience that, no pun intended, will create some credibility and will create a reason why you would wanna recreate that experience again, right?
[00:07:44] So, for me, I think those are the, if, if I had a, a, a restaurant marketing book or a restaurant book, those would be sort of the, the three lessons that I would, uh, I would focus on.
[00:07:55] Daniel Weiner: You may get a book deal after this, Sergio, we get a, we get a good, good listenership here. You just touched on a couple of them, it's kind of a, a, me repeating the question in a different way, but I'm curious, you know, you've talked about all those things in general, food space, super crowded,
[00:08:08] there's so many options when people are, like you said, craving something. In a crowded space, how do you gain attention in this space? I mean, we were, I think, still in the chicken wars and stuff like that, but in general, like, what's your recommendation for kind of just winning the attention? You mentioned meeting your, you know, customers where they are and stuff like that. What's the overall gist of how you can, you know, find that and, and win when the, uh, attention is the battle?
[00:08:35] Sergio Pérez: For sure. I think battle might be, you know the right word here, I, I think if you talk to restaurant marketers, particularly over the last two and a half, three years, you know, it's always been a street fight, right? You're consistently fighting for what I like to call Sheriff Summik, but over the last three years, it's become a lot more heartened because
[00:08:54] restaurant marketers have sort of thrown the playbook out and really have been in what I would call, you know, crisis communication mode, right? A lot of your marketing has shifted, or over the last two and a half years, shifted to talking about things like, "We're still open," or, you know, health and sanitation messages and really accelerating, you know, digital capabilities to make sure that
[00:09:17] restaurants could stay afloat, that people feel comfortable in, you know, visiting restaurants in, as we turn the tide from what was the height of the pandemic, I feel like 2023 is a year to sort of reestablish our position as a restaurant industry to remind customers and people why they love going out to eat.
[00:09:39] And I think, you know, sparking that credibility by doing that third thing I talked about, which is finding that cross-section between people, culture, and food to make sure that we are romanticizing the food story, that we're romanticizing the idea of people coming together and sharing a plate of food over, whether it's at one of our restaurants or whether it's at your house, sharing it among people.
[00:10:04] It is about, you know, reestablishing that and sparking that credibility again, that, you know, a lot of folks sort of, I wouldn't say lost, but that, you know, wasn't as much of a priority as people were dealing with the big changes that the world is seeing, you know, over the last couple years.
[00:10:21] Daniel Weiner: What was your biggest learning from, truthfully, COVID, and that, uh, that exercise in marketing?
[00:10:27] Sergio Pérez: I would say that, you know, people continue to be at the core of everything, that people matter, and that at that point, it's not about a KPI, it's not about a conversion, it's not about anything else, but it reminds you that this industry is built by people to serve people. And it was great to see how agencies also threw the playbook out,
[00:10:51] and a lot of innovation happened over the last two years, a lot of digital platforms were built, a lot of new sort of media models and, you know, ways to communicate with people have appeared. So, it, uh, I think reassured all of us that, uh, this industry is resilient and that when times are tough, this is where some of the best innovation happens. So, I would say the headline for me is, you know, people matter, and that still hasn't changed, uh, regardless of what happens in the world.
[00:11:20] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think it's interesting, too, you touched on it, it, especially in food, but I think across all marketing sectors, we often forget, like, to your point, you can have the best marketing in the world that drives everybody to your restaurant, but if you don't give a positive experience and your operations aren't right, and the food orders aren't accurate and stuff like that, they're not coming back,
[00:11:41] and the marketing was wasteful to a certain degree. So, uh, I interviewed several, you know, people in the, the food marketing space. It's interesting to hear that perspective 'cause I haven't heard it like that, and I think, truthfully, myself included, like, forget that oftentimes you're thinking of the big creative idea, and you forget, like, well, we got 'em there, and you think that's the win,
[00:11:58] you're like, "Oh, shit, now we gotta figure out how to actually make 'em happy." And we forget, we forget that part. The repeat business is the important stuff.
[00:12:05] Sergio Pérez: That's what matters, right? It's not about, I mean, first impressions matter, and they do, but you build businesses by driving positive traffic, right? And making sure that people continue to, you know, show up to the restaurants.
[00:12:17] As a marketer, you also learn that it's, uh, easier to spend dollars, and it's cheaper to spend dollars to retain customers than it is to buy them, right? So, how do we work to build experiences that keep people coming back versus consistently having to buy, you know, ourselves out of, you know, a problem?
[00:12:36] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. You talked, uh, about agencies innovating during COVID and all that sort of stuff. In general, what's your overall opinion of, of agencies? Love 'em, hate 'em? They get a, an interesting rep in my world, a necessary, a necessary evil to some, some love them.
[00:12:51] Sergio Pérez: I would agree with you, I mean, I would say that, I would answer the question by saying I love agencies that, you know, really inspire us with work that has the potential to drive business. I don't like agencies that don't understand the business and that, you know, bringing ideas to the forefront that
[00:13:10] won't really make an impact. And I think for me, you know, while there's lots of great agencies out in the world, I think it's important to work with agencies that understand the restaurant business specifically because we have a, a bit of a different dynamic, you know, there's, you know, when you have to teach an agency what comm sells are, for example, or what's it like to work within a franchise system that has individual business owners that sort of have, you know, their own objectives and goals and ambitions.
[00:13:40] You wanna make sure that you're working with people that understand, you know, even the process of making food, right? And, you know, if you're gonna shoot a commercial, you might not be able to, you know, shut down your full restaurant completely. So, having agencies that understand the, the complexities and the intricacies of the business is critical because it,
[00:14:00] one, I think it enables us to move quickly, and it gives us sort of a, a competitive advantage in terms of speed to be able to make better decisions for restaurants and restaurant brands versus having to, you know, spend an awful lot of time teaching an agency how business works, the impact that operations has on the business, so on and so forth.
[00:14:21] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, it's interesting, and before I get into the next question, this kind of leads into it, I find food to be a, one of the particular verticals where it is very, um, normally, I would disagree and say, like, category experience isn't a necessity, but I do agree to a certain extent in food. I'm curious, like, when you're looking for a new agency, I find folks in food, especially in your roles, are reaching out to other brands, truthfully, they're counterparts that they've either worked with in the past, or know and respect.
[00:14:47] Is that how your, like, how, what's your process typically outside of knowing me, of course, and solely, but how are you finding great vendors? Are you typically asking counterparts and stuff like that?
[00:14:57] Sergio Pérez: Yeah, you know, the, as I said sort of early on, uh, this industry is built by people, and the degree of separation in this industry is sometimes scary in terms of somehow some way someone's connected to somebody, whether it's somebody you work with, a franchisee, you name it. So, I am a big believer in having sort of a trust of people that I sort of engage with in a consistent basis.
[00:15:20] And this is sort of how I like to operate, not only to find, you know, vendors and agencies, but to really talk about, you know, how we're solving today's problem or, you know, how do we find the next big idea. So, I, I'd like to first sort of rely on, first identify what I'm looking for, whether it's a vendor, an agency, a service, I'd like to sort of reach out to my network and say, "Hey, I'm looking for a new agency to build a mobile app, for example, who have you worked with?
[00:15:47] Do you have any recommendations?" I then take that a little bit of a step further into a bit of my own research. I like to sort of see who's, you know, up and coming, who's either receiving any sort of awards or not notoriety and then I make a very short list of vendor services or partners that I want to talk to because I also believe in the efficiency of, you know, moving quickly through that process to ultimately, the, the sooner you can onboard a partner or a vendor, the sooner you can make an impact on the business.
[00:16:19] So, by being laser-focused on what you're looking for, what you're trying to build or accomplish, it gives everybody clarity as to, you know, if you're gonna be a good match, if you're gonna be able to move quickly, and ultimately, if that partnership or relationship has a prospect of working out.
[00:16:37] Daniel Weiner: Sure. And most folks with your title that I speak with, especially on this podcast, are getting hit up every day, typically by vendors, services, products, all that sort of stuff. Is that similar to your experience?
[00:16:50] Sergio Pérez: A hundred percent, and...
[00:16:51] Daniel Weiner: I can, I can tell, I can tell by the deep sigh you took, uh, when answering.
[00:16:55] Sergio Pérez: Uh, I do, and I saw it because it is, you know, three to five comes a day, right? Whether it's an email, whether it's a LinkedIn message, and, you know, it's interesting you say that. A little bit ago, maybe about 20 minutes ago, I got a text from a random number saying, "Hey, I'm so and so, saw you on LinkedIn, would love to talk about X, Y, Z." And to be, that's the first time I've actually gotten a message like that in terms of a text message.
[00:17:20] Daniel Weiner: You said, you said, "I'm busy, I'm going on the biggest marketing podcast in the country. I can't talk right now."
[00:17:24] Sergio Pérez: Exactly. I'm about to get a book deal, but, uh, but I would say that, you know, the, the inbound communications have certainly increased over the last two years, I think there's been, particularly with the growth of technology in the restaurant space, there's been a lot of opportunity for digital transformation and digital work to happen.
[00:17:42] So, a lot of marketing technology companies in the restaurant space have, you know, built, uh, big sales teams, and I can tell you with, uh, full transparency that I, I have not once spotted product or worked with an agency out of sort of a cold call, email, or text message.
[00:17:58] Uh, that's just, that's never happened, I'm not saying that it, it wouldn't happen, but as I talked to you about my process, I'd like to know who I want to talk to and why I want to talk to them versus, uh, the other way around.
[00:18:11] Daniel Weiner: That, uh, I, I answered my own next question of if there's anything somebody can say to stand out in those, is there, I guess, to, to even make you jot down on a piece of paper, like, maybe I'll look at them later or not your, uh, not your thing?
[00:18:23] Sergio Pérez: I think there's a couple things, I mean, I would say, first and foremost, a strong record of driving results for a restaurant industry, I think you'll always get the ear of a restaurant marketer or a restaurant professional period if you can talk about driving, you know, incremental sales to the best institute,
[00:18:41] Sergio Pérez: doesn't want more cells in the restaurants. So, if, if there is a way to sort of tell that story and say, "Look, we have this new product," or "We've identified, you know, this new idea that has driven this result for these restaurants." It gives you some pause, right? And so, look at them, what we're all tasked with is not only protecting, you know, the brands who work with, but also growing, uh, our brands from a financial standpoint.
[00:19:07] Uh, so, if anybody, you know, has a service or a product or an idea that will help us do that, we're certainly all ears. But I think for me, the biggest thing, you know, in that space, too, is I think we're also moving into a space where, you wanna work with partners and agencies that are a little bit more nimble and scrappy because this industry moves so quickly.
[00:19:28] So, I would say those would be probably the few biggest things for me. The ability to drive results and the ability to sort of be nimble and adjust to the environment in which we are, you know, working.
[00:19:38] Daniel Weiner: And in general, once you've put together your list, you've asked your colleagues, you've got, say, three or four folks that you want to reach out to and start having those conversations, what are you evaluating on? I know you just mentioned driving results in restaurant world and stuff like that, but how can somebody stand out even on a general call?
[00:19:54] Are you looking for specific to work? You know, my hot take of sorts is that the work doesn't matter, and what I mean by that is, of course, it matters, but the rapport side is so important and agencies oftentimes forget that. Are you, what are you thinking of in those initial calls to, like, move somebody onto that next round, I guess?
[00:20:12] Sergio Pérez: For sure. I think first and foremost, that track record of driving results is incredibly important to this resilience aspect of being nimble and scrappy and be able to move with the pace of the business. I would say three would be sort of creativity, and sort of what I mean by that is, you know, the restaurant playbook can be, you know, simplified and, you know, you, you need to have product views,
[00:20:35] you've got a great, have a great media plan, you've gotta find relevant moments within a calendar to drive sales. But how do you reinvent launching a new LTL product, how do you reinvent the wheel a little bit to find, uh, sort of a different, more innovative, relevant way to do something? Uh, so, I'm constantly looking at sort of innovation relevancy and sort of how they think about the business.
[00:20:58] And then, the last piece for me, particularly at a brand like Bojangles, is you want to talk to people that actually know the brand, and that actually have a passion for what we're doing, you know, whether it's, you know, the southern values that we have or whether it's, you know, the fandom that this brand has sort of across the country.
[00:21:16] Sergio Pérez: We want people to feel connected to us, that have, you know, a fandom for what we do and that ultimately can at least initially, you know, create some excitement around what a future partnership would look like in terms of driving the business. So, I would say the headline is "Get us excited about your work and your thinking."
[00:21:37] That, uh, will help us move, you know, Bojangles to a national stage, and if you can do that, then, you know, I'll talk to you, you know, all day, all day long.
[00:21:47] Daniel Weiner: I've seen a big shift, since COVID especially, of what I'll call bigger named brands or brands with name notoriety moving towards smaller, independent agencies that are specialized in, call it one to three services. What do you think of that? Have you seen that shift as well, and just what's your opinion on kind of smaller, specialized agencies in general?
[00:22:07] Sergio Pérez: Yeah. I think it's been an interesting shift driven by sort of how the last couple years have transpired in terms of the needs of the business, and I particularly, I'm a big fan of that, that idea, and I almost think about it as a collective of agencies, right? I think, you know, you, we wanna find the people that are the best at what they do, not okay, at a lot of things.
[00:22:30] And almost building a collective of who can do PR the best, who can do creative the best, who can build digital experiences the best, and sort of building a collective of subject matter experts that, you know, when you sort of have more brain power across couple of different agencies, it creates sort of a hub of creativity, of,
[00:22:50] you know, strategic thinking, of ideation, and it brings more perspectives to the table, which is incredibly important as, you know, you're constantly trying to find what the next big idea is, what the next platform is going to be, what the next opportunity for us to find relevance is, and I feel, like, by having more people at the table that are subject matter experts in specific areas gives us a better chance at finding, uh, that next big thing.
[00:23:18] Daniel Weiner: No, that makes total sense. Can you think of a really great agency experience you've had in the past and what made it so great?
[00:23:25] Sergio Pérez: I, I would say, you know, you, you love it when an agency unprompted comes to you with an insight they found by digging through the data or a creative idea that, you know, sort of somebody woke up in the middle of the night and came to you and said, "Hey, I've been thinking about X, Y, Z, and this is something we can execute."
[00:23:43] So, one thing that we did last year is sort of about the height of kind of the gas conversation with customers. We had an idea around if this is something that's top of mind for consumers, people are talking about it in the news, it's sort of a trending topic across, you know, social platforms and conversations.
[00:24:00] Uh, we decided to do a million-dollar gas giveaway last year, and basically, we said if you purchase X, you know, you would get a $10 gift card when you visit the restaurant. And it was something that we sort of turned around sort of fairly quickly talking about that nimble, sort of speedy side of things. But it came out of this sort of, um, insight that, you know, people were feeling the gas pump, uh, crunch.
[00:24:24] And we thought, you know, that's what people are talking about, how do we, you know, find a way to capitalize on that conversation and also be able to drive, you know, visits to a restaurant. So, that would be an example of how people, culture, and food sort of came together in a bit of an orthodox way to be able to, you know, drive to the end result, which was driving more visits to our restaurants.
[00:24:47] Daniel Weiner: Sure. And the client-agency relationship is a, an interesting one, I would say, uh, specific to the marketing world, ever-changing, very dynamic, a fickle one at times. How do you handle it? But also what is your tip for somebody else in your role, a marketing leader, to get the best out of your agency partners?
[00:25:05] Sergio Pérez: You know, I think that, uh, I've always believed that, uh, you know, agencies are only as good as the direction you give them, right? And, you know, for us, the responsibility from a client perspective is to make sure that we're giving very clear direction in terms of what are our objectives, what are our goals?
[00:25:23] What is the problem that we're trying to solve for? But also balance that with giving an agency room to think and to be creative and to do their work. So, for me, I, what I've found to be the most successful in working with agencies is establishing really clear expectations, really clear guidelines because you get closer at delivering the result.
[00:25:47] Sergio Pérez: You, you know, see the memes all the time of, you know, people saying, when you give feedback or direction, when you say, uh, you know, make the fund a little bit bigger, or make that, stand out a little bit more. What does that actually mean in terms of actual direction and the interpretation of make this a little
[00:26:04] bit better or make this a little bit bigger, could be interpreted differently by creatives, by, you know, the people you're communicating with versus you saying, "Hey, I need you to take that up, you know, 20% bigger." And when you give people very clear direction, you end up getting better results. So, I think providing clear direction is, you know, by far probably the most important thing.
[00:26:25] And then, two, I think having an incredible transparency encounter with your partners, you know, I, we're in this together, and their success is our success or vice versa. And we wanna work with partners that care about the business and the brand like we care about the business and the brand.
[00:26:43] And it is, when you build those kind of strong relationships based on, you know, respect, transparency, great direction, and sort of shared responsibility, it also becomes a relationship that goes outside of the scope of work, right? I think a lot of, uh, places where you can get in some trouble is, well, the scope says X, or, you know, we're not really scoped to do that, and we're not saying to work for free, but what we're saying is there's things that
[00:27:09] sometimes required you to go outside the scope to say, "Look, we gotta get this done and sort it out." And that's where so that resiliency, uh, nimbleness comes from. So, for me, those are important rules of engagement, if you will, with working with, uh, you know, strong agency partners.
[00:27:27] Daniel Weiner: Talk me through, uh, it doesn't even have to be a bad one, just a negative agency experience you've had in the past and, and what made it, you know, more on the negative side?
[00:27:35] Sergio Pérez: I would characterize it as, you know, agencies that deliver bad execution against a brief, you know, we take big pride in giving great direction to agency partners and, you know, being transparent and sort of making them an extension of the team. And when you get, you know, work back that, just doesn't match the brief or doesn't match the intricacies of, you know, the system,
[00:28:00] Sergio Pérez: for example, you know, planning a big production shoot that will require a restaurant to be closed for three days when, you know, what feeds the franchisee who owns that restaurant and is keeping that restaurant open, are, you know, some examples of how sometimes working with agencies can be a challenge because, you know, they either don't understand the assignment or propose, you know, ideas, activations, or executions that, you know, have a negative impact on, you know, the profitability of, uh, some of our franchisees.
[00:28:30] Daniel Weiner: Do you think that negative situation can be salvaged once it's occurred and get back on the rails, or in the, you know, there's a million agencies out there, I think the last I saw was 90,000 in the US alone, uh, have you moved on once the, the seed of doubt has been planted, or you're willing to, depend situational, I presume, but, uh, talk me through that a little bit.
[00:28:49] Sergio Pérez: So, I've only transitioned out of an agency in a previous life once, and the way I would describe it, it's, you know, agency-client relationships are a little bit like a marriage, right? You're sort of in it together and health and in, you know, illness. But I do believe that, you know, similar to, like, a marriage, there's a point where I think one or the other partner feels like it might be over, and it might be,
[00:29:12] you know, time to get a divorce, if you will, and because our relationship with agencies is one of partnership and us being transparent and them having a seat at the table, it, it becomes very evident at some point where it's time to move on. And I think the minute you start thinking about, "I'm not sure I have the right partner, or I'm not sure this is working."
[00:29:33] Trying to salvage it through marriage counseling, sometimes, one, it just, sort of makes the end, uh, more elongated than it should be, and sometimes, uh, sort of quicker, cleaner break makes it easier for everybody to sort of move on, reset and, you know, get going on, you know, an ex-partnership.
[00:29:52] Sergio Pérez: But, uh, generally when you start to have some doubts about your partners, just like in any relationship, likely is that, uh, you gotta, you know, break away.
[00:30:04] Daniel Weiner: I find, too, truthfully, with dealing with brands of your size also it's, uh, typically a messier divorce only because you're typically more entrenched in the business and it's just harder to break away oftentimes than, you know, a smaller brand who's, uh, not as in bed with that client or that agency.
[00:30:22] Sergio Pérez: For sure. And that's why I think the collective sort of thought in terms of collective agencies is an interesting thought, too, because it allows you to plug and play one function versus having the, you know, completely unplug an entire, you know, AOR that handles all the portions of your business.
[00:30:41] So, it gives you a little bit more flexibility, I think, you know, replacing one part of the car versus having to, you know, replace the, the entire car.
[00:30:50] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. Nah, that's totally fair. What do you think is something that oftentimes agencies get wrong, or something that you wish more of them, quote-unquote, God or understood? If you could, uh, give a blanket statement to all the agencies out there?
[00:31:02] Sergio Pérez: I would go back to franchisees because I think, you know, I had a great mentor one time tell me that the work, that people's paychecks depend on our work. And I think that brings a level of responsibilities to all of us collectively from a marketing perspective to make sure that we have a responsibility to not just the brand, but, uh, the people who've invested in this brand, the franchisees who, you know, maybe took a mortgage out to get a restaurant, the employees that they employ through that restaurant.
[00:31:33] And we have a responsibility to not just create the next flashy thing that's gonna land us in the trades, but a responsibility to do meaningful work that's actually going to drive sales because ultimately that is the measure of success, it's not, you know, how many awards you got, not, you know, sort of the, the next big,
[00:31:56] you know, idea that puts you on a publication, but it is our ability to actually grow profits for our franchisees, and particularly for me, that's close to home because, you know, like I said at the beginning, I grew up with a family that owned restaurants, and when I think about them, I think about, you know, my folks.
[00:32:15] And I think about that's how, you know, I got through college, that's how they paid the bills. And I think oftentimes it's easy to forget whether you're, you're an agency or a restaurant marketer that at the end of the day, it is about how are we driving results for the brand and the stakeholders center franchisees, and not so much about the acute idea that will look great for the next publication
[00:32:41] Daniel Weiner: That's totally fair. I know the answer to the next question is not ChatGPT, so but I'll ask it anyways. What are, what are you most bullish on in the marketing space at the moment? I think we're out of our, uh, NFT, Metaverse bubble, maybe, I'm not entirely sure, uh, there's, in-person events are back, trade shows, all sorts of stuff. What are you most excited about?
[00:33:01] Sergio Pérez: I think as restaurant marketer, I'm most excited about the acceleration of the digital transformation in the space. You know, ten years ago, few brands were on things like online ordering and really participating in digital platforms period, you know, over the last five years, but
[00:33:17] particularly over the last three years, there's been a bit of a, an arms race to build capabilities to create accessibility to people for food, but also to start to ramp up, uh, data operations, right? One of the, the downfalls of the restaurant industry is that it's significantly behind in leveraging data to make
[00:33:37] better, smarter decisions, investments, and, you know, driving conversions. So, we're, we're going through this, what I would maybe characterize as a technology renaissance where, you know, restaurant brands are uncovering that there's a lot of customer data that could be available to us and that we can leverage to drive further personalization, drive more localization to make their restaurant experiences better.
[00:34:01] So, for me as a digital professional, it's been very heartwarming to see a lot of brands talk about the importance of digital, talk about the importance of data, but you've got retail looking at us saying, "Well, we've been doing this for 10, 20, you know, plus years." So, how that is going to change the way
[00:34:18] Sergio Pérez: restaurant brands market is gonna be interesting. And the second thing for me, in that same vein, is the iteration of sort of next-generation loyalty programs, you know, I've got lots of hot takes on this, but my headline being I believe that loyalty programs within the restaurant industry are broken,
[00:34:35] I believe that points don't actually drive any additional action, and it is about how do you build the loyalty program of the future that really focuses on customer data and how people are engaging with your brand and your product to deliver more meaningful experiences versus get a hundred points and turn that into a free chicken sandwich or a free ax.
[00:35:00] It's less about, you know, creating these transactional models and more about how do you really get back to getting to know people and, uh, and making sure that we are, you know, delivering those personalized experiences to drive, repeat visit, which is what is, uh, probably the most important to grow, uh, our business.
[00:35:18] Daniel Weiner: If you launch your own, uh, loyalty platform, you can come talk about it on the podcast. We'll do it, uh, when you're, whenever you're ready to, uh, launch the next version of it.
[00:35:26] Sergio Pérez: I can't confirm nor deny, so we'll see.
[00:35:28] Daniel Weiner: There, there you go. What keeps you up at night from a marketing or business standpoint?
[00:35:33] Sergio Pérez: A lot, but I, I would say the, the big thing is the economic uncertainty that, uh, customers might have over the next year, you know, you see what's happening on a macro level around the world, whether it's, you know, Asia or Europe, or the war in Ukraine, all those things create uncertainty from an economic standpoint.
[00:35:52] And while, you know, none of us have a crystal ball, anytime there's uncertainty in the market in any way, it limits people's ability to, you know, play with their money a little bit more or be, uh, more flexible when it comes to finances. And, you know, as you're looking to either cut back or be more risk averse, you tend to cut things like entertainment and food are so the first things to go.
[00:36:16] So, you know, for me, it's what impact does this uncertainty have in, uh, people's willingness to continue to go out to eat at the same frequency? And what that means is that we've gotta work harder at having great operations and great experiences in restaurants, and we've gotta continue working hard to find those relevant moments with customers to make sure that they know that a dollar spent here is better spent than a dollar with a different brand.
[00:36:41] So, it makes, uh, us sharpen our pencils and, you know, work a little bit harder to earn that business.
[00:36:48] Daniel Weiner: No, that's, uh, makes total sense that, that concludes the, uh, the marketing portion, I'll give you a, a couple rapid-fire questions, and then we'll wrap up here. I think I know the answer, you mentioned restaurants, your very first job working at your family's restaurant?
[00:37:00] Sergio Pérez: Yeah. Uh, cleaning tables and busing tables. So, uh, you had to, I had to work my way up. So, that was my, uh, first gig.
[00:37:08] Daniel Weiner: Mine was busing tables as well, and I, uh, I made a, uh, the leap to food expo of, uh, running food in an Italian restaurant called Ippolito. So, I'm with you there. What do you think that, you've talked about it throughout the podcast a little, but I ask everybody, like, what do you think you brought from that experience into kind of, like, your leadership role now, either externally to franchisees or internally to people you work with?
[00:37:30] Sergio Pérez: I think the headline for me is empathy. I think it makes you, you know, particularly the last two years and the grind and the resilience that particularly restaurant employees saw and dealt with, it gave you a lot of empathy for people. So, for me, that's something that is incredibly important in today's business world to make sure that you have an eye at not just driving the business, but eye also at people and making sure that we're far more, you know, understanding of, uh, what's going on in, in the world.
[00:38:00] Daniel Weiner: You've worked in food a lot, so I'm especially interested in this. What's your final meal if you had to pick one?
[00:38:06] Sergio Pérez: I'd say good Texan.It's gotta be, uh, steak tacos with a handmade, uh, flower tortilla and, uh, handmade salsa. Also, there's nothing like, you know, a taco with freshly made ingredients. And for me, a handmade tortilla is just, uh, you know, heaven on earth.
[00:38:24] Daniel Weiner: I'm with you. I may pick that as mine, normally, I answer sushi, but now I'm in the mood for a taco. And the final question I've got for you, who is somebody who inspires you either personally or professionally or both?
[00:38:33] Sergio Pérez: I'll go back to one of my first answers, but I would say, restaurant employees. Uh, and it's not one particular person, but, uh, over the last three years, restaurant employees really were the lifeline of our business, they worked long hours, they, you know, put up with a lot of uncertainty when it comes to, you know, customers and restaurants being closed and supply chain, you know, issues.
[00:38:57] And through it all they've been resilient, and that's sort of the story of the restaurant industry, uh, regardless of what crisis has happened in the country, restaurant brands and restaurant people have found a way to innovate, to find a way to, you know, overcome whatever challenge. And when you visit a restaurant, and you see how hard, uh, they work to deliver a good meal, to take care of a customer,
[00:39:21] it makes us here in this building work a little bit harder for them because if it isn't for them, there's no restaurant, and there's no food going out, uh, out of this kitchen. So, for me, our restaurant employees, not just here at this brand, but across, you know, the country, play an important, vital role in feeding our communities.
[00:39:39] And oftentimes they don't get either, you know, the, the credit, they do for, uh, helping feed, you know, America. So, for me, it's, uh, all those restaurant workers that, you know, have made it through a very challenging, uh, two and a half years or so.
[00:39:54] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, that's great. I would say in general, having worked in restaurants, yeah, restaurant people deal with a lot of shit, truthfully. So, uh, it's good to hear, uh, them called out and, uh, no, I appreciate you joining. I also kind of want one of those pullovers you're wearing, so if you've got an extra one of those, uh, it looks like that's exclusive, I don't wanna, I don't wanna put you on the spot here, but, yeah, that is quite the, uh, quite the pullover, so thank you for
[00:40:16] Sergio Pérez: Listen, you know, we're happy to see the logo represented anywhere we can. So, send me your address, and I'm happy to send a care package with, uh, you know, some cool swag for you to say, "It's Bo Time!"
[00:40:28] Daniel Weiner: That's what we like to hear. Thank you very much, Sergio. I look forward to, uh, hearing and seeing more of what comes from Bojangles in 2023, and thank you for joining.
[00:40:36] Sergio Pérez: I appreciate it. It's Bo Time!