KFC's chicken and waffles were a limited time offer launched and marketed by the brand last year, with Zahumensky at the helm. / KFC KFC's chicken and waffles were a limited time offer launched and marketed by the brand last year, with Zahumensky at the helm. / KFC

Top Restaurant Marketers Q&A: KFC’s Andrea Zahumensky

Andrea Zahumensky’s marketing philosophy at KFC, as well as in life, is “nothing great happens when you’re comfortable.”

Since coming on board as the chain’s chief marketing officer in November 2017, Zahumensky has put this mantra into practice for the Yum Brands’ subsidiary. (Think KFC fire logs and the faux bearskin rug of Colonel Sanders the company has marketed since Christmas.) She previously came from Proctor & Gamble, owner of household consumer brands like Pampers, Tide, and Gillette.

Her team is comprised of 30 marketing professionals and additional outside agency creative help. Together, she and her team are focused on taking KFC’s advertising campaigns to new heights in 2019. According to Zahumensky, this requires the company to further improve its food innovation, technology, and brand partnerships, too.

Andrea Zahumensky is one of the executives featured on Skift Table’s Top Restaurant Marketers 2019, our new franchise focused on the top marketing leaders in the restaurant industry.

Skift Table: What were you tasked with doing when you came onboard at KFC?

Zahumensky: I was tasked with continuing to accelerate the brand’s growth and making KFC a brand consumers can trust. Part of that is creating bigger and bolder advertising campaigns, and diving deeper into our food innovation strategy.

We are on our fourth year of the celebrity Colonel campaign, and one of my first decisions at KFC was launching Reba McEntire as our first female Colonel Sanders, which was wildly celebrated among media outlets and consumers. Additionally, last year we launched new, innovative limited time menu items, such as KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken and Kentucky Fried Chicken & Waffles.

Skift Table: How do you think about TV advertising spend compared to running ads on digital channels?

Zahumensky: We get a strong return on traditional media spend so we continue to invest heavily there. Still, as our customers spend more and more of their time on digital and mobile platforms, we have shifted our investment to include a healthy mix of digital and mobile to reach our customers where they are and maximize our spend. 

Andrea Zahumensky, KFC’s chief marketing officer.

Skift Table: Take me through the process of how an idea goes from a concept to a national commercial?

Zahumensky: We start by briefing our advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, on the promotional window. They’re often inspired by an insight or a tension in the brief that gets their creative wheels turning. Every campaign and idea has a unique starting point, whether it’s an idea that starts on a Post-It note or in a team brainstorm. Our ad agency will then work through creative concepts and develop scripts and storyboards before starting production so we can collectively envision what the commercials will look like prior to shooting them.

Skift Table: How does KFC decide what the subject of a commercial will be?

Zahumensky: We first consider our objective and primary target for the campaign, as well as the unique attributes of the menu item at hand. From there, we build out concepts that will accomplish our objective and reach our target customer, while also entertaining and engaging viewers in our uniquely KFC way.

Skift Table: KFC has marketed some, let’s call them interesting, retail products, such as fire logs and the Colonel Sanders Rug of late. Where do these ideas come from?

Zahumensky: We want our brand to show up in interesting and unexpected ways in popular culture, and we have a great team that looks for new and exciting ways to do that. Some ideas are born internally, while others come from our agency partners.

Skift Table: Out of curiosity, is there a marketing campaign outside of KFC that you were particularly impressed by in the last year?

Zahumensky: Last year’s Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick by Wieden+Kennedy was an inspiring and brave campaign. It communicated a simple, but powerful, message that showed Nike was willing to step out of its comfort zone. Pushing outside your comfort zone is a philosophy I personally live by and practice in the work we do at KFC.

When a brand shows the courage to stand for something that aligns squarely with their brand purpose and heritage, it creates culture verses mirroring it, and Nike did just that with this campaign. Whether or not you agreed with the message, it was a bold campaign.

Read More: Skift Table’s Top Restaurant Marketers 2019

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