CMO of the Week: Jack in the Box’s Ryan Ostrom

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Ryan Ostrom joined Jack in the Box as chief marketing officer in February 2021. Ever since, he has been on a mission to make the QSR the most craved brand in relevant and authentic ways. 

Ryan Ostrom joined Jack in the Box as chief marketing officer in February 2021. Ever since, he has been on a mission to make the QSR the most craved brand in relevant and authentic ways. 

“We've built a really strong team here and we're starting to evolve the brand by improving the food, improving our packaging, improving our store design and looking to show up in more culturally relevant ways,” says Ostrom.

The brand recently reintroduced popular menu items Spicy Chicken Strips and French Toast Sticks. To promote the relaunch, the QSR brand tapped Stars Wars legend actor Mark Hamill for the campaign. Not only is Hamill a fan of the brand, he is a former Jack in the Box employee that was fired for doing clown voices when he worked the the drive thru as a teenager. 

“As we started looking to bring back some of our fan favorites, we wanted to be as authentic as possible,” says Ostrom. “We always knew in our back pocket that Mark Hamill used to be an employee. We wanted to be as authentic as possible with this campaign and I think it really resonated because it is a true story.”

Hamill starred in comeback campaign TV spots, as well as in a mix of exclusive content. “As you look through the various channels, you get a little more of the story in different ways,” explains Ostrom. “We also went as far as creating a comic book for this execution to tell the story. We were just looking at unique ways to bring Mark’s story to life.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Ostrom from his office in San Diego to discuss cultural moments, tacos for breakfast and a Mark Hamill Comic Book. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you talk about your vision as CMO?

It is building off of that crave mentality. What I love about being a marketer in the QSR space is the impact you have across all many touchpoints of the guest. When I talk about being craved, it is not only our look and feel, but it's every touchpoint that the guests engage in. It's how do we make our food more craveable? How do we make our associates excited to be at work and really create a consistent experience that is required when you're in QSR in the food business. We try to make sure that the guest leaves going, ‘Hey, this was a great experience. I love the food. I want to go back.’ 

How does the Mark Hamill campaign help support your brand’s business objectives?

Our overall business objective is really to make the brand more craved. And what that means is being more cultural, relevant, authentic, visible, easy and distinctive, and everything we do, from our brand is to make Jack more creative. We talked about how authentic this campaign is. But it's also very distinctive. A lot of other brands are using celebrities to promote their products but we have a real story with Mark. 

It was an immediate connection when we reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, would you like to tell the story? He said, ‘I'm in. I love this. I want to participate. Let me know how to make it happen.’ It resonates with where we want to take the brand. The idea of Craved is literally in everything we do from our uniforms to our commercials to our social and our new store designs. Everything will make this brand more craved and more culturally relevant. This is a good first step for us as we continue to evolve our marketing.

How are you thinking about channels to your core customers?

One of the things we're really focused on is really making sure we create the right content. If you were a marketer 10 years ago, you’d just put an ad on TV. TV is still required in our business to still reach the masses, but it's all about how you take that message, dissect it, put it in the right channels at the right time, and tell a little different story that's more unique to that channel. One of the bigger accomplishments we've had since I've been here is the shift to digital. Now the majority of our marketing spend is digital. It's a big shift to not only increase our investment with the Instagrams and the Facebooks of the world but also TikTok and Twitch and some of these other unique channels that have strong followers.

What do you think about emerging technologies like metaverse and NFTs?

It's interesting, we haven't really jumped into those areas yet. We've been watching the landscape. Because we have so many other opportunities, we’re more focused on those. We're going to start moving pretty heavily into Twitch and gaming. We've been sponsoring gaming for five or six years, but we really want to be a stronger brand within that spot. We are really about stepping forward, but we want to step forward with a purpose. It goes beyond just technology in the marketing space and includes innovation and technology in stores. For example, we're experimenting with Flippy, a robot that takes orders and flips burgers. By bringing that microtechnology into our stores, we are going to really revolutionize what QSR looks like over the next few years.

Can you talk about your company's brand purpose and how this shows up in the creative?

Our brand purpose is giving people a taste outside the box. We live that pillar here every single day. We really bring that to life through our Jack Foundation. We partner with No Kid Hungry. It's also about supporting our franchisees.

But not only does that apply to our charitable sides but also in our marketing. We want our customers to taste outside the box. The majority of our stores are open 24 hours a day. We don't follow the rules of breakfast only being available in the morning. You can get tacos for breakfast. You can get breakfast for dinner. You can get food late at night. People crave different flavors at different times and our brand likes to offer a variety of choices and let people taste outside the box. People are used to the burger brands or the chicken brands. We are a burger brand that is famous for our tacos. That makes us unique. Bringing that unique taste outside the box is something we really believe in in everything we do.

Can you talk about the challenges the QSR brands face today and how you're overcoming these?

Media channels are changing. It used to just be about TV. Now there's a plethora of channels. So how do you get your brand out and really reinforce who you are as a brand consistently across all these channels? We're in a very competitive market. QSR brands are all fighting for the same customer at the end of the day – those that have stomachs and want to eat food. So we try to bring our pillars to life. We focus on 24 hour all day breakfast and show that we break the rules compared to other QSRs.

What are you most excited about for the rest of 2022?

I feel like I'm the luckiest CMO in the world. I grew up on Jack in the Box. I love this brand. The only thing holding this brand back is our imagination and where we can take it. I’m also excited about where this executive team is. Most of us are fairly new, having been with the brand two years or less. We're going to get into new markets. We just announced a rollout in Salt Lake City. We have a few other states where we're going to roll out at the end of this year and the beginning of next year. We're really excited about bringing this Jack lifestyle and Jack in the Box with new gas new customers in that craved way that we really developed here. So there's a lot of excitement. I wake up every single day and excited to be part of this business and part of this brand.

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