Pollo Campero logo on a small screen

Pollo Campero is navigating the incredible shift to digital ordering, off-premises consumption and some new ways of doing business, especially when it comes to marketing.

The 80-location concept started down the digital transformation path prior to the pandemic, so 2020 was a year of tweaking, not panic. The company grew sales some and benefited from being in the chicken category and popular at the dinner hour. The digital acceleration spurred a big shift for the marketing department.

"We had this platform that we had that we could tweak," said Federico Valiente, director of marketing for the company. "In 2020, the name of the game was speed. In 2021, as we look back, it was clear that we had opportunities to smooth things out that will make our offerings and our convenience even easier for our guests. So, we're optimizing customer journeys, optimizing those touchpoints, better leveraging data and insights to deliver even more relevant experiences for our customers."

His role in marketing changed dramatically in the last year, and put him and the company on a path toward more digital, more measurable and content-rich marketing. That shift was fueled by the explosion of data flowing through the newly omnichannel restaurants.

The data "becomes a strategic asset to understand consumer behavior and we can begin to hypothesize how we interact with them and how we market to them," said Valiente. "The level of this data has been transformative; we're now being able to be a lot more tailored to make sure we're as relevant we can be instead of blanket marketing."

That's a big change for many brands the size and age of Pollo Campero. Founded in 1971, it's grown steadily for 50 years without the whizbang tech or marketing tools mega brands have. The COVID-era data flowing in and the cost of those tools coming down to planet earth, however, offered a chance to radically re-think marketing.

"We had a presence on digital both earned and paid and owned. But one of the big things that we quickly hypothesized in 2020, the traditional media we're used to investing in is probably not going to be as effective given consumer mobility. Is anyone going to see a billboard or listen to a radio spot?" questioned Valiente. "In late March, we completely overhauled our media strategy and pivoted to 100 percent digital."

That accelerated the insight flywheel. The data coming in through digital orders was compounded by the potential to test, measure and improve digital marketing.

"Now, I have more data, I have more segments and I am more informed and I have more ways to talk to customers or consumers in general. The list that we need to go through to maximize the value from this data and the new media that we're activating continues to change the day to day enormously," said Valiente.

That comes with some big changes to how he and the team think about the marketing calendar. Instead of a few major marketing outlays and major budgets, it's a constant effort.

"Traditionally, you think about a marketing calendar as two or three huge activations you work on during a year. It's like you're producing a movie, you're getting ready all year for a summer blockbuster. Digital, it's more always on, it's more like producing a series and it a lot of chapters and a lot of content and you want to be cohesive and consistent with the story you're telling," said Valiente. "The capabilities you have to have internally, there's a real shift there. You need more content creation more advanced analytic and more advanced execution."

He said that has changed the staff and the mindset about how to organize the entire marketing arm of the business.

There's still plenty of traditional marketing, which has come back as consumers returned to work through the year, but now it's one big movie and a few supporting series. While the brand was moving in that direction, the pandemic offered a massive set of data and a real push to move faster. The silver lining for Valiente has been more measurable and relevant marketing for the 50-year-old brand much faster than it may have been.

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