Welcome to CultivatED Marketer …
In this 11th episode of CultivatED Marketer, hosts Brent Bowen and Matt Tidwell, PhD, chat with Kristen Majdanics, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Firehouse Subs. While she currently leads a team of 20 marketing professionals and provides support to more than 1,200 restaurants, Kristen worked for more than a decade at agencies in the Kansas City and Chicago areas. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia, and she is a former colleague and friend of our very own Matt Tidwell.
CultivatED Marketer Ep. 11 (Part 1) — Kristen Majdanics
Brent and Matt talk with Kristen Majdanics, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Firehouse Subs. They’ll discuss cause marketing as well as handling the crisis of the pandemic.
Brent asks Kristen how cause marketing became part of the DNA of Firehouse Subs. Kristen shares that many people don’t realize Firehouse Subs was actually founded by two firefighters who were brothers in 1994. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the brothers wanted to do something to help, so they went to support a group of first responders who traveled from Orlando to help in New Orleans. After that, they realized they wanted to continue supporting first responders as a core tenet of the business.
At that point, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation was created. The Foundation grants equipment to first responders, and most of the equipment is purchased through donations from guests rounding up purchases in the restaurant, or dropping cash in the coin jar. A few years ago, it got taken a step further, and now a portion of every purchase made at Firehouse Subs goes to the Foundation.
How else can people give to the cause while in-person traffic to the restaurants is down due to the pandemic? Kristen says people can give online either at the Foundation’s website or by rounding up their order with an online purchase.
Matt discusses his recent experience in a Firehouse Subs restaurant and the importance of authenticity in cause marketing, a conversation they also had with Mike Swenson. Matt says that with Firehouse Subs, the connection with the cause is very clear in its messaging.
How has the pandemic changed things for Firehouse Subs? Kristen says she and her team had to function in a quick-turn manner because, while they usually plan content months in advance, they had to make a shift to fundamentals. At first, the most important thing was letting people know that Firehouse Subs restaurants were open. The loyalty program was a big focus in the early days as well.
Customers trended toward wanting to collect points rather than redeem coupons for free combos. Other insights Kristen’s team picked up on: more group orders or family meals rather than office lunches, and more focus on comfort food such as melty cheese on their sandwiches.
They also created a special fund for people to donate toward buying a meal for first responders in the context of health care workers, and they saw a large response from the community.
To finish out part one of the interview with Kristen, Matt shifts the conversation toward careers. How has Kristen transitioned into a leadership role? Kristen says it’s important to find the balance between “letting go” and trusting other people to do the job … while also being accountable for what they do. She says that makes it even more important to hire people you trust.
Upcoming CultivatED Marketer Guests
Join us for part two with Kristen Majdanics shortly.
Jessica Best — VP of Data-Driven Marketing at Barkley and previously worked at emfluence. Her specialty is email marketing — for anyone who thinks it isn’t effective, Jessica would beg to differ.