You may know it better as the ‘fast food industry’, but it’s also known as the ‘quick-service industry’. In Southeast Asia there are plenty of different franchises and types of quick-service restaurants, some focusing on local cuisine and more global ones like McDonalds, Subway, and Burger King.
In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Head of Marketing at 4Fingers Crispy Chicken, Belinda Ho, talks about her 20+ years in this fascinating industry and how she came into digital marketing. Her experiences over the course of her career provide insight into the industry itself, as well as her own life’s story.
Hi, Belinda, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?
I have been in the quick-service restaurant industry for more than 20 years. Starting with McDonald’s for 17 years, then a quick 21 months in Texas Chicken and finally, nested in 4Fingers Crispy Chicken.
Local store marketing, events and family marketing were my foundation and forte back then. I previously headed the Happy Meal Program in Malaysia. I plead guilty for breaking many hearts due to the “sold out” situation in all of the HM Programs during that time. But in my defense, we did not expect such an overwhelming response….. Ha! Ha! Ha!
It was my short stint with Shell, representing EdenRed that had me dabbled in digital marketing overseeing built on mobile apps CRM Programs. That was my awakening and brought me further and deeper into digital marketing (social media, digital marcomm, food aggregator and strategic partnership)
When I was at Texas Chicken in particular, the insights into digital marketing played a major role in encouraging me to learn more, leading me to my current position as Marketing Head at 4Fingers.
You’re the Head of Marketing at 4Fingers Crispy Chicken. Please tell us about 4Fingers and the work you do there.
Let me see, where do I start…?
I am responsible and accountable for everything related to Sales, Marketing, and even PR. This includes yearly budget projection & marketing calendar planning, sales performance, brand management & positioning, advertising, new product development, local store marketing, new store openings with image enhancement, digital marketing as well as Corporate MarComm and strategic partnerships. Since we are the brand keeper, we must keep tabs on any new designs from store images to uniforms.
My typical day starts with analyzing daily performance and nimble it strategically. Not forgetting preparing project proposals throughout the year and leading campaigns from the budget; planning to execution. And I usually end my day by visiting at least 1 store out of our 52 stores.
Lastly, I also support Franchise Team and Indonesia Team in setting up of new stores and on-going engagement in campaigns & new products.
What sort of impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on 4Fingers Crispy Chicken?
The impact comes as an opportunity to reach out to customer beyond the storefront, as customer seeks to digitally hunt and engage themselves for their next meal. The need for businesses to change digitally and evolve with new consumer behaviour is essential.
How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies as Head of Marketing? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?
We switch 180 and fully focus on advertising digitally and collaborate heavily & effectively with our Food Aggregators Partners to bring attractive selections to the our consumers. Since delivery is dominating over foot traffic, all campaigns are emphasized towards products that can sustain portability. We changed the packaging to maintain our product quality to be same as enjoyed at the storefront.
Strategies became shorter to midterm. And we (the marketers) must be more adaptable to situational circumstances. Understanding that the lines between tactical and strategic during this period are totally blurred.
From helping to market the brand as a Covid safe brand, marketing the safety aspect of the business, taking on new consumer needs for staples and family meals and now helping the business adapt after it has opened.
In addition to that, the biggest challenges were the insufficient and inconsistent supplies that made the obstacles even more significant, especially our chicken supplies. Because of that, Marketing Team synergizes with the Supply Chain Team to ensure continuous supplies, especially chicken. Marketing will tweak the menu & window calendar campaign based on SCM projections. During this time, we have to be extremely agile and able to response quickly based on unpredictability circumstances.
What lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?
The positive impact would be the building of digital infrastructure as the adoption rate of digital engagements are now higher. This accelerated the consumer learning on it and that now has set a foundation for a lot of businesses.
Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?
In fact, it doesn’t because marketing’s true role is still about “communication of a product to a target customer through a medium and seeks to convert them” and for the past decade it has still proven that change is a constant and marketers must adapt.
Changes in communication channel adoption and effectiveness, consumer behaviour and environment are part and parcel of day-to-day marketing. Ultimately is the understanding of consumer behaviour.
As a woman, there are often obstacles to overcome in any industry. How have your experiences and opportunities helped shape you professionally? Do you feel that your career has had an impact on how you now lead your teams?
Totally agreed. The working landscape is dynamic as we established, and the business world is no longer just a man’s game. In fact, based on my working experience I have met more women Marketers either as a client or within the agencies communities. However, I must admit that battling or trying to compete in this challenging environment is “no walk in the park”.
My experiences and opportunities now had an impact on how I lead my team as they have given me:
- The ability to wear many hats
Balancing careers, household management and taking up the mantel of parental guidance helped me to quickly adjust to new situations and focus on finding solutions to real-life work issues.
- Enhancement of Teamwork
I am an advocate of teamwork and team player. Making bold and wise decisions which will help make the team environment less authoritative and more cooperative, bringing a family-like feel to the team. Eventually, this boosts teamwork across the organisation and helps implement a new culture within the business.
Any advice you’d give to young and/or aspiring marketers?
Learn how to be proactive & helpful instead of being quiet and waiting for directions. Be PROACTIVE by asking a lot of questions. However, it is AN ART to ask questions without being annoying and counterproductive. You do by listing down all the questions, set a dateline for feedback and coming out with options & solutions.
This behaviour eventually produces the right working attitude and lastly, understanding & be adaptable to the ever-changing marketing industry.
It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Belinda, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or 4Fingers Crispy Chicken’s work?
You can follow me on LinkedIn.
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