Survival Lessons from 3G Capital Takeovers at Burger King and Heinz

What would you do if your career depended on how you answered three questions in a fifteen minute interview with the new CEO?

That’s what faced the headquarters staff at Burger King upon being acquired by Brazilian-owned private equity firm 3G Capital in late 2010.

And, earlier this year, the leadership team at H.J. Heinz went through the same experience when they became 3G’s latest investment.

The three questions, discovered by Fortune reporter Jennifer Reingold:

  1. What have you done for the brand?
  2. What can you link to driving sales traffic or relevant financial metrics?
  3. What suggestions do you have for the company?

Tough stuff for sure.  As Reingold relates in her article:

“It was nerve-racking, another former executive says.  People were throwing up in the bathroom because their whole career comes down to this.”

Image: iStock.

Image: iStock.

Surviving new management is difficult, especially when it results from merger/acquisition activity.  New bosses often want their own people, regardless of the strength and talent of the incumbent teams.  While assessments can be legitimate, they’re more likely to be incomplete, arbitrary or just a formality.

If you’re on the receiving end, the overall process probably seems unfair, and there’s little you can do about it.  Except, plan ahead for next time.

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T-Mobile Creates Ticked-Off Parents to Sell Global Travelers

It’s bill-shocked Mom and Dad versus globetrotting son Jeremy in T-Mobile USA’s smart, new, integrated marketing campaign.

The message comes across loud and clear, but there’s some doubt whether T-Mobile can deliver a positive customer experience.

Photo: T-Mobile website.

Photo: T-Mobile website.

The wireless provider is touting its plan that saves users on international data service charges:

“With the Simple Choice Plan, each line comes with unlimited talk, text, and data while on our home network—and starting October 20, unlimited data and text in over 100 countries at no extra charge.”

The marketing campaign includes television advertising, a dedicated website, social media interaction, a contest to win a trip around the world, and airport communications.   There is also a companion effort in Spanish.

Photo: T-Mobile YouTube.

Photo: T-Mobile YouTube.

What stands out, though, are the TV ads.  

Give T-Mobile and its creative partners credit for coming up with an advertising idea that both gets attention and communicates the service benefit.  There’s no “did you see that great ad, but I don’t know the company” here. Continue reading

For Commodity-Busting, Idea Generating Inspiration: Think Hamburgers.

The next time you’re blocked on marketing or business-building ideas, think about hamburgers.

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Because, what’s more of a commodity than hamburgers?

Author Dave Dolak provides this succinct definition:  Commodity products are largely undifferentiated products that offer little or no perceived differences between competitive offerings.

Yet, consider the creativity spawned by the ubiquitous hamburger – so many variations on the same idea that excite consumers every day.

This is top-of-mind for me because I just learned about a hamburger chain called Bareburger, which opened a restaurant in Edgewater, NJ.

It got me thinking.  There seems to be an endless amount of brand concept, product development and overall food establishment new business activity across the country, built around hamburgers.

Obviously, the challenge is to create meaningful differences or reasons to buy.  Build the news or make new news out of existing products.

So, if you’re running a commodity business, tasked with marketing a commodity product, or just in need of some new business ideas, be encouraged.  Draw inspiration from USA hamburger chains. Continue reading

KFC Speeds On-the-Go Eating with Cup Holder Chicken

Packaging-driven innovation can boost sales, especially when it’s smartly connected to customer needs and opportunities.

KFC has just launched the KFC Go Cup, a hand-held serving of chicken and potato wedges in a cup that fits most automobile cup holders.  There are five different product configurations.

Photo: KFC website.

Photo: KFC website.

Before you dismiss the launch as mere gimmickry, consider this:

KFC’s CMO told The Wall Street Journal that about 50% of sales come through the drive-through.

The KFC team leveraged that point of data, understood the implications from the customer’s perspective, and created a new product format to make on-the-go usage easier and more convenient.  It took two years to get it right. Continue reading

Master of Disguise – Texas Roadhouse CEO Goes Incognito for External Learning

“It’s important that I not be recognized when scouting. I have Bubba teeth to dive to another level. The goofier you are, the more folks don’t care about telling you stuff.”  Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse CEO

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Photo: Texas Roadhouse Facebook.

Getting closer to your business operations, employees and even competitors doesn’t require a trip to your local pop-up costume store.  Save that for this year’s Halloween shopping.

Kent Taylor, the founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse provides a funny reminder that business leaders need to avoid the ivory tower syndrome and get out into the market for real learning. Continue reading

Sports Branding: Time to Say Goodbye to the NFL Redskins.

Is it time for the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name?

A Native American organization says yes, and has mounted an aggressive marketing campaign to see it happen.

Let’s look at five key aspects to this story:

  1. Derogatory Term.  It’s not hard to understand that a National Football League team called the “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans.
  2. Incredible Commissioner.  The NFL commissioner’s letter to Congress suspends reality.
  3. Strong Marketing.  The advertising campaign is clever.
  4. Insensitive Owner.  The team’s owner ought to be more diplomatic in his public comments.
  5. Brand Management Implications.  The name has been used for 80 years, but is it a good brand management decision going forward?

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Planet Fitness Drops Dumbbell with Gym Member Communication

It’s not only what you say, but sometimes what you don’t say, that irritates your customers.

Similar to poor communication, a lack of communication can also be damaging if you’re trying to maximize positive customer engagement.  Case in point:   my gym, Planet Fitness, just dropped a dumbbell and they didn’t say excuse me.

Here’s what happened.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

Photo: Planet Fitness Facebook.

When I signed-up for membership a little more than one year ago, automatic monthly billing was set-up via card credit.  I haven’t had any problems.  The process has worked fine.

Last week, my credit card on file with the gym was deactivated due to fraud concerns.  Once I received the new card, I made a special trip to give the gym my new card number.  I figured it would be easier and faster to handle it in person rather than calling by phone.

It was neither.  To my surprise, I was informed that Planet Fitness no longer offers billing by credit card.  I was told that, based on a recent change, payment is now only allowed via checking account direct withdrawal or debit card (seems the same to me). Continue reading