Brandy Blackwell is the Senior Marketing Manager at Tijuana Flats. She oversees all social media and content marketing, public relations, local store promotions, and new store opening efforts. Tijuana Flats is a Central based Florida chain Tex-Mex restaurant, with more than 110 locations spanning over 6 states. Joining the company in 2008, unit count has since tripled and exceeded 100 million in annual sales. Before joining Tijuana Flats, she was a Public Relations Coordinator at Anson Stoner Advertising Agency. Brandy has great experience on both the agency and brand side of public relations, and I was thrilled to speak to her.
The Story of Her Career
As an advertising major at the University of Florida, she wasn't sure in what direction she wanted her career to go. She began her career at Anson Stoner in account management in public relations. Without much mobility during a time of recession, she saw an opportunity at Tijuana Flats, a chain restaurant that she associated with her childhood in Florida.
Not knowing much about the food industry at the time, she began her role at Tijuana Flats overseeing local store marketing. With only 40 units at the time, Brandy took on multiple roles that extended beyond her job description that included media purchasing and public relations. Managing many hats with success, Tijuana Flats ultimately stopped working with an agency and brought all their marketing efforts in-house.
Learning and Growing with a Company
"In my opinion, marketing is really hands on. You really have to go out and actually do it to really know what part of it you like."
"Marketing is a constant evolution. If you don't keep up, you'll be left behind. The trends are changing all the time."
Brandy states that it's not possible to learn everything, but learning for yourself and keeping up with trends is the most important.
Tijuana Flats on Social
Bringing all marketing efforts in-house really helped resonate with Tijuana Flat's audience. "We're a really vibrant, eccentric brand that's sold with a lot of innuendo," says Brandy. With a large millennial following along with Gen-X, Brandy thinks it's important to "focus on a few platforms and do them well versus being everywhere. You can't be everywhere."
The brand focuses on the three established platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The goal is to build sales without over-selling. What it comes down to is sentiment towards the brand. A recent post that went viral was a feature on a Tijauana Flats store manager who would give free water and allow kids to wait for their parents indoors without purchase. The post organically reached 60k of its 150k followers and really resonated with its audience.
"Build a positive repetition for your brand. That post is about 'little things make a big difference' and you'll be shocked at the reactions to it."
Although it's typical to remind consumers about the food and discounts that are available, the culture of the restaurant is also important.
To get a 360-degree view of analytics, Tijuana Flats uses a third company party to aggregate its social media data from all of its channels. Not only does it include social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, but TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other hospitality and travel review sites. It gives a broad insight on what its audience is saying, even on platforms that Tijuana Flats isn't publishing on. "It's not just about the few things you put your time and money into."
Geo-targeted posts are important to the brand. With a master account for the brand, it highlights location-based events or promotions. Finding new markets where it's not as established, Tijuana Flats supports all of its units.
Content That Cuts Through the Clutter
Content is done in-house with a designer. Brandy is constantly sourcing for material in their consumer base to share and use. "People feel like they're part of something bigger when you're sharing their content," she says about user-generated content.
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