Steve Robinson is the executive vice president and former chief marketing officer of Chick-fil-A, and he is one of this year’s keynote speakers at the International Convention Center Conference, October 1-3, in Atlanta, Georgia. At the conference, he’ll talk about leadership and marketing, so we asked him a few questions about these subjects.
You’ve been with Chick-fil-A for more than 30 years. What have you learned from your successes and mistakes in marketing?
1. Take cues from customers and be their champion.
2. Build a great brand only in the context of a great culture.
3. Attract great people who are better than you are at what they do, help them plan, resource them, and get out of the way.
4. Great brand building and marketing are seldom a function of fact based only decision making…informed intuition is required…particularly if you are trying to emotionally connect with people.
5. Great ideas are more important than size of the budget.
What are some challenges in marketing that you foresee in the next five years?
1. Pressure on short-term results…counter to the long-term view needed to invest in major trans-formational brand and experience building.
2. Related, data proof before any major new marketing or brand initiative…counter to building relational experiences and brands. Build your case from the customers’ perspective, not internal or financial only.
3. Temptation to think there is no role for traditional media…wrong!
4. Assumption that people will not pay a premium for genuine service.
What are some best-practice strategies for handling controversy?
1. Don’t engage in the “soap box” of social or news media…cannot win because you cannot control context or really connect with people.
2. Speak the truth ASAP to those you trust.
3. Related, is there a friendly advocate?
How has marketing changed since you began your career?
1. Marketeers now have the opportunity to shape the entire experience and messaging for a brand…and they should. Every touch point should be influenced or be lead by marketing.
2. Marketing should champion for customer-centered innovation, and thus, growth in the enterprise. Too many forces can stymy both.
What advice can you offer to students and young professional who want a career in marketing?
1. Work in customer facing jobs at an early age…learn how to deal with and delight people.
2. Learn early that you have to earn new opportunity and advance; no one owes it to you. Go the extra mile.
3. Work on developing written and spoken communications skills…must be able to sell and inspire others. Followship is more important than title.
4. Be willing to take informed risk in your career and on the job.
How do you want to be remembered?
I attracted great talent, gave them what they needed to excel, role modeled the behavior that deserved their followship, and I loved them for who they were. Most of all, I served them.