Driving Brand Awareness: After 15 years, Bubbakoo's hires its first CMO
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Driving Brand Awareness: After 15 years, Bubbakoo's hires its first CMO

Driving Brand Awareness: After 15 years, Bubbakoo's hires its first CMO

This past March, Mexican fusion brand Bubbakoo’s Burritos made a strategic addition to its executive team, hiring Mimi Somerman as its first CMO. She came prepared for the job, with more than two decades in the restaurant industry that included stints at QSR, fast casual, casual, and fine dining brands.

“I knew immediately that Bubbakoo’s was a concept strategically designed to not only scale, but thrive at a national level,” she says. “When they approached me about joining their team, it was an easy choice.”

Somerman’s addition comes as the New Jersey-based brand celebrates 15 years in business, topping 100 locations in 16 states. The brand, which is building a reputation based on its innovative menu, this year jumped 100 spots to #238 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list.

Her experience covered the bases of what she calls “comprehensive marketing, communication, and brand strategy” for Bubbakoo’s as the brand prepared and launched an updated and modernized app and loyalty program designed to engage guests and elevate their experiences. A number of unique promotions and prizes began rolling out in June.

“My primary goals as the CMO are to drive brand awareness and sales within and outside of our already popular markets and insert Bubbakoo’s into larger restaurant industry conversations,” she says.

Somerman says one of her fundamentals of marketing revolves around a consumer-centric approach that prioritizes the wants, needs, and insights of customers. “Nothing will ever be as important as knowing your customers,” she says.

Describe your role as CMO. I lead the comprehensive marketing, communication, and brand strategy for our brand and provide individualized support for our franchise owners based on their needs.

What’s the most challenging part of being a CMO today? Today’s climate comes with both advantages and challenges, and those can often overlap in marketing. One of the ways it overlaps is with the quantity and velocity of innovation and thought leadership. While it’s an advantage to see what’s worked for other brands, it can limit the amount of originality we can infuse into our strategies. This, however, simply requires us to constantly keep innovation top of mind in our day-to-day operations.

How has Covid-19 affected the way you have led your brand’s marketing efforts? While Covid-19 now is no longer an emergency, its effects can still be seen in all facets of business today. In terms of my role as a CMO, we now know that despite there being no mask mandates or restrictions in place, consumers still have a major focus on things like off-premise dining, third-party delivery, and mobile rewards programs. These aspects were heightened during the pandemic and continue to be paramount in our strategies to this day.

What are the three most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today? There are three tenets I keep top of mind in terms of being an effective CMO leader. The first, and arguably one of the most important, is to keep a consumer-centric approach to prioritize customers’ wants, needs, and insights. The next element, which has grown in importance in recent years, is embracing the digital wave. There’s been such an emphasis on digital innovation with loyalty programs and apps that it’s become pivotal in our everyday operations. Third, adaptability is crucial in the ever-changing restaurant industry. We’re constantly coming up with new ways to better serve both our franchisees and our customers. Often, that means being fluid and flexible with our ideas.

How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies? I start by identifying clear marketing objectives and ensuring they align directly with our business goals from both a consumer and franchise development stance. This is followed by any necessary market research, which allows us to leverage gained insights to inform our next move. Using our goals, along with market research and target demographic information, we’re able to execute a strategy that includes any branding, audience segmentation, channels for promotion, and more.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness? For a restaurant concept, it can depend on what the specific marketing strategy was. The overarching goal is to drive both repeat traffic and new guests to our restaurants or app and increase transactions. To measure how effective our recent strategies have been, we typically track things like app usage, app downloads, numbers regarding our loyalty program, visits to our website, social media platforms, and so on.

Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives. As a brand, we utilize several strategies to further our reach. One of those is with public relations from both a brand and local-ownership standpoint. Not only does this create buzz about noteworthy brand news, it also inserts our restaurant owners into local news outlets in their market. We also highly encourage all store owners to be active in their communities to build relationships with everyday guests.

How do you go about creating a customer-centric marketing and brand philosophy? It involves deeply understanding the needs, preferences, and pain points of your target demographic. It requires conducting market research, analyzing customer data, and leveraging customer feedback to inform decision-making processes. Ultimately, this shapes marketing strategies that prioritize delivering personalized experiences and building strong customer relationships.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a personal touch when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects? We have a lean marketing team that is personally involved in all aspects of marketing. It’s imperative that our marketing team adds a personal touch to everything we do, especially when aiming to support potential franchise prospects through the pipeline. We’re also in constant communication with our existing franchisees. Ensuring that they feel our dedication at the same time is paramount in our work.

How does this help your franchise sales and development effort? Our franchise owners know that they’re important to us and feel valued in our system. That’s imperative to us because we are currently more regionally based. We want our current and potential franchise partners to feel connected, supported, and cared for. Our marketing efforts and communication with store owners can play a major role in that.

What ways/tools do you rely on to do this? We rely on this connectivity with an extensive welcome program for our franchisees. It’s where they have the opportunity to meet the team and learn in-depth about how we operate on the ground level. Overall, it makes them feel more secure in their choice to move forward with us.

Do today’s prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it? Yes, I do think franchise prospects today expect more out of a marketing department largely because the landscape we live in has shifted so dramatically to a digital, consumer focus. We provide all of our franchisees annual, quarterly, and even monthly plans and reports that outline the work we do and how it benefits their locations.

How is today’s consumer and marketing data helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives? Well, there’s a lot more of it out there than ever before, so we’re able to use the data to analyze what campaigns are working with our target demographics and fine-tune our strategies to fit what the data shows us.

How do you work with other internal departments, and does technology help? We work with other internal departments on a close basis to ensure that each facet of our business is running as smoothly as possible. Our marketing strategies wouldn’t come to life without the creative and technology side of the business. Our franchise operations team relies on us to support our franchisees from a system-wide and local market standpoint. It’s a symbiotic relationship between departments.

Do you see vendors as business partners? Absolutely. Our vendors act as an extension of our team. Each vendor we do business with takes the time to learn our brand and become integrated at a deep level with our day-to-day operations. Their partnership is integral to our success, and we make sure they feel valued.

How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted? Marketing is an ever-evolving field, but the past 10 years have been particularly fast-paced. Data-driven, digital, and hyper-personalized marketing is what consumers look for, and that’s something we’ve been able to adapt to when using our social media channels, mobile app, and other resources.

What advice would you offer to aspiring CMO executives? The technology may change, and the tactics and strategies may change, but the bottom line is that consumers like to feel seen and heard. If you’re able to provide that for them, you’ll gain loyal and lifelong fans.

Published: October 15th, 2023

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