For Shannon Keller, digital is the future of marketing. True Food Kitchen’s chief marketing officer, who took on the role in March as the first CMO in company history, has her sights set on capturing a changing audience and connecting with them beyond the four walls of the restaurant.
“We need to remain relevant. There’s more healthy competition now than ever,” she says. “There’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketer, because we certainly have our work cut out for us to really home in on what makes True Food Kitchen different, and not only continue to reinvent ourselves, but also become a brand that stands the test of time.”
Unlike other health-focused chains popping up in all segments of the industry (especially fast casual), True Food Kitchen is a full-service brand built on a specific set of principles. The concept revolves around the anti-inflammatory pyramid developed by co-founder Andrew Weil. It puts vegetables, fruits, and whole grains center stage with minimal animal proteins.
Keller acknowledges that explaining True Food Kitchen’s mission to someone who hasn’t dined there can be a challenge, but getting the message across to consumers is a marketing task she enjoys. It’s what differentiates the brand from competitors in an overly saturated industry.
Digital marketing allows the brand to be flexible and broad with its message in ways it couldn’t before. It can be more reactive as customers demand change.
“The nice thing about technology and digital media is that we are able to act quickly and implement changes in order to remain relevant,” Keller says.
Due to the rapid changes in consumer behavior and the rise of fresh marketing channels, Keller has had to develop a strategy completely different from what the brand was doing five years ago. “The way that we would market to consumers even a year ago is completely different,” she says.