AMA: Jeff Long
Jeff Long AMA is happening on February 26th 2020 at 10:00 AM PST (1:00 PM EST)
Jeff Long leads Performance Marketing and E-Commerce/Delivery for KFC US, though his preferred title is “Head Online Chicken Salesman”. His team works closely with IT and Marketing to make tech-focused ways of ordering fried chicken easier from ordering on KFC.com to kiosks and even the drive-thru. When he’s not selling fried chicken (or eating it) he works as a consultant to a major-league baseball team and as the Marketing Director for Baseball Prospectus – a stats-focused online publication.
Prior to joining KFC, Jeff co-led the digital team at Doe-Anderson, an ad agency in Louisville, working on projects for brands like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, and Texas Roadhouse. He also worked in a variety of roles at Planit, an agency in Baltimore, where he worked on projects for Under Armour, Marriott, Kleenex, and more. Jeff has a BBA and MBA from Loyola University Maryland and started his career in advertising/marketing as an intern at Planit despite his MBA classmates telling him how stupid he was for going into advertising with an MBA.
Jeff lives in Louisville with his fiancé Sarah and their two Pomeranians, Alton Brown and Anna Belle. In his free time he enjoys playing golf and volleyball with friends.
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Jeff Long – Transcript
AMA with Jeff Long @ KFC
February 26th, 2020
Hi everyone . Excited to get started and answer any questions you have! Thanks for having me. My team oversees Performance Marketing & EComm for KFC so happy to answer any questions in those areas.
Hey Jeff. What does Director of Performance Marketing entail? What are you responsible for?
We’re tasked with driving demand generation to our commerce platforms, managing customer lifecycle, setting ecomm strategy, capturing and leveraging customer data, and myriad other things haha. It’s always a moving target!
Hey Jeff! Nice to meet you I’m curious, what have you found to be the best tool for marketing attribution? What model do you typically use to measure paid performance?
So I defer to our media team on this one, but generally I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for attribution. Every model I’ve looked at doesn’t do a great job of accounting for things not easily tracked (e.g., PR) which, for a brand like ours, makes attribution really tough.
Are you more focused on first touch or multi-touch?
We look at each channel and kind of assess it on both sides, but I don’t spend a ton of time worrying about either one. My goal is just to improve the performance of the entire funnel over time, if that makes sense.
What is the biggest pain point you continue running into?
Good question! I think the biggest challenge is always figuring out where to focus limited time and dollars when there are a million things I want to test/focus on. I’m a big fan of the test > learn > iterate approach, but it’s hard to identify what things should get into that flow and which shouldn’t.
What process do you use to decide currently?
Lots of conversations! We talk through things internally, with franchisees, with our partners at our sister brands and global KFC business units. We just try to amass as much information as possible and then discuss as a team to make smart decisions. There’s not secret recipe – not for this anyway.
Do you eat a lot of fried chicken? Haha
Yes! More than I should, but I’ve actually lost weight since starting at KFC, so I can’t really complain about that!
Welcome! My question is what are usually your first hires when building a new perf marketing team? Who are the most important players?
So with my hires I try to blend generalists with specialists. My first hire was someone who had experience with a lot of things (CRM, loyalty, media) and she tends to stand projects up and then hand them off to specialists to manage/execute on a day-to-day basis.
Where do you see the biggest need in terms of skills within organizations you’ve worked for?
Passion and a desire to learn. Adaptability. Curiosity. If you have those things, we can figure everything else out.
What are the tools/strategies that are essential to your demand generation toolbox?
We have rockstar partners for CRM and CDP (Braze & mParticle respectively). I think those are the keys to everything we do. Everything else is basically what’d you expect – GA, A/B Testing platforms, Google, Facebook, etc.
Which aspects of digital marketing do you find most important when building a team?
Things change so fast I’m looking more for soft skills and problem solving ability than anything specific. That said, GA knowledge and ability to communicate are critical.
Hey, thanks for the AMA. My question – what do you have in mind for your next career move (in terms of position, not company/organisation)? And why?
I was asked this in my interview! My answer then, and today, is that this job didn’t exist 5 years ago, so the job I’ll be doing in 5 years probably doesn’t exist today.
Haha. That’s a good answer without actually answering. But thanks
Honestly – I do think that’s a real answer. I like doing things that are new/challenging/potentially revolutionary for the business. So whatever it is, it’ll likely be focused on innovation and digital in some capacity. It could be a marketing strategy role, a technology role, a solely digital role – I’m open to all of those.
I understand that and I meant no offence in my reply Its a great point that I often forget. Digital/performance marketing roles are relatively new and suit people that are looking to shape their role in a business to meet ever changing needs. Great point. Thanks a lot
What set you apart from your colleagues who were also vying for the very position you’re in now as Director of Performance Marketing?
I never actually asked about anyone else who applied for the role, so I can’t say
Howdy! What’s been your most successful marketing campaign with KFC and why do you think it was so good?
Lots of successful marketing campaigns! We launched a new ecommerce platform with our new Wings product in October and I was super proud of that. I don’t know if it was the most successful, but it was a big win for the business and a lot of fun to partner with the rest of the marketing team on.
Are you in charge of KFC performance worldwide or only in the US? If it is the 1st reply then what is the biggest difference between each markets (EMEA, Asia, Africa and North America for instance) ?
Just US – we have great partners at KFC Global who we work with to collaborate globally. The short answer is that KFC is new in many countries globally so perception of the brand is VERY different than here in the US.
I bet the APAC, specifically Japan, is an interesting department (and around Christmas )
Oh for sure! I’m so often in awe of the incredible work our teams do internationally. I try to pick their brains as much as possible to see how what they’re doing might be applicable in the US.
hi Jeff! in a fast food world when people want to eat NOW wich are the best way to improve the ads performance
We try to come back to – you can order right now and have Hot, Fresh, and Delicious KFC delivered to you or pick it up in store. It’s also about keeping the brand top of mind and being relevant to customer desires.
Ok. Last question. What has been your biggest win in the last year and what did you learn from it?
Launched a new ecommerce platform in October. We’re still learning so much, but I think one key is that perfect doesn’t exist. Shoot for very good and then work to optimize as you go.
How did your background in baseball analytics translate into your success in performance marketing?
Great question Jason! Honestly, I bring so much of KFC to baseball and vice versa. I think the biggest thing for me is that when you’re dealing with people (players or customers), there is no such thing as perfect. So fetishizing over building the perfect experience or strategy is often a waste of time. 80/20 rule all day.
How do you guys measure the performance of your activity, specifically attributing offline purchase back? And evaluating its incrementality?
We’re working on this! It’s always a moving target but just trying to stitch together a unified customer record with the data we have available to us.
How do you track and measure your traditional marketing efforts? If you can’t, how have you been able to push for traditional marketing when you can’t make any discernable attributions?
Location data to measure store visits is one way. We look at some attribution when we have full-funnel visibility too. At the end of the day sales rules all though.
Has KFC used crowdsourcing and co-creation in its marketing activiites?
What have been the performances of those activities?
We have not done this to my knowledge.
Aside from digital channels, how do you use traditional marketing (i.e. direct mail, radio, etc) and measure attribution?
Not my area, but we have a pretty heavy traditional media footprint. Noted this in some replies above but we can look at location data and have some other ways of digging into this. Sales rules all though.
What kind of metrics do you and your team optimize towards? How do you test against them?
Conversion rates first and foremost, but we also look at our average check sizes and try to figure out what’s causing movement there. It really depends on the tactic and our goal for that tactic in our overall strategy though.
How did agency life prepare you for working inside a huge corporation like Yum?
Working for agencies gave me a ton of experience working with senior leadership which has been huge in Yum!. It’s also really helped me build creative problem solving skills that I try to leverage every day. People should 100% start their careers in agencies – firm believer in that.
How does social media fit into KFC’s overall marketing strategy?
We use social in a lot of ways. Obviously we have organic presence on many platforms and we leverage targeting capabilities to deliver ads. We’re still testing there to see how we can further leverage the various platforms and the role of each.
How do you come up with the benchmarks you hold yourselves to across social and digital?
We try to align everything – even digital metrics – to our over-arching business goals set by Kevin Hochman, our President. If it doesn’t ultimately deliver against the goals for the business, it’s probably not the right benchmark to consider.
Welcome! How much do you value localization of ads when marketing in different countries? Have you seen this be more or less impactful in any major english speaking markets?
My focus is US-only, so I can’t help much on this!
Off the top of your head, what campaign or test had the most surprising return on investment?
We ran a Facebook test last summer that I was pretty nervous about but the average check was so high we had a positive ROMS on the 1st purchase. I thought we’d need multiple purchases per customer to break even.
Are you able to share what the essential test was?
It was super simple – we were looking at people who had bought from us during a free delivery window on Grubhub to see if we could bring them back into the store. We ran a test on actual purchasers vs. a look-alike group and both had similar, positive, results.
What side hustles are you doing?
Ha! I have 3 jobs. KFC, I consult for an MLB team, and I lead marketing for a small baseball publisher: Baseball Prospectus.
HI – thanks for being here. I am a marketing director looking to expand my role and ensure I am hiring the right people/roles – what specific roles/job titles are under your management?
I have 3 distinct teams under me: Performance Marketing (CRM, Performance Media, Customer Data), Ecommerce (.com, App, Aggregators), and Data (Analytics/Data Science)
I appreciate the response! I currently manage CRM and email, but I am hoping to build out my role into Lifecycle Mkt and/or Performance Mkt, and this is very helpful.
Of course! I specifically title my team “Performance Marketing” vs. CRM or whatever, because then I can kind of slowly broaden our purview without getting in trouble . Ultimately all of those things should fit under one big umbrella, so I just started there and we add things as we unlock them.
Who came up with “I Love You, Colonel Sanders” Dating SIM, and how does this work in the Japanese market?
I believe that came from our brilliant agency partners at W+K and Edelman. Can’t speak to success internationally, but it’s been a big hit here in the US and in a few other places as well.
How do you forecast sales with traditional marketing to convince your higher-ups this is the route to take?
We work really closely with our Finance and Strategic Planning teams to refine our projections and better understand the incrementality of online buyers. It’s a constant exercise in adjusting as we get more data and evolve our understanding.
How do you get more people to come into KFC? Aside from ads – what other proven method have you found extremely successful and why?
We try to make our brand as culturally relevant as possible. That’s where you see things like I Love You Colonel Sanders or our KFC Crocs. Our team does an amazing job working with our agency partners to deliver against that cultural relevance mandate.Then it’s about having compelling products (like Chicken & Donuts) and keeping the brand top of mind.
How are you currently dealing with cross channel and/or multi-touch attribution. Specifically, how are you figuring out the “true” ROI of each channel / platform when every channel takes credit for a conversion it contributed to?
This might be heresy, but I’m not super worried about defining the specific ROI of every channel. I kind of think of it as just refining our approach to drive overall ROI up over time. I don’t think there’s a “perfect” mix of tactics – the world is changing too fast for that to be the case on a persistent basis.
What is something that you found to be incredibly difficult when it comes to managing customer lifecycle and what was something that was surprisingly simple? Any lessons?
Surprisingly simple – just being relevant. People will tell you with their actions what’s most relevant to them. So lean into that and focus on relevance vs. what you’re trying to accomplish as a business. The rest shakes out.The difficult part is being patient and persistent in that mission while trying to support different product launches, business needs, etc. It’s a double-edged sword.
What did Rich Fulks mean to you as a manager and mentor?
Rich is a good friend! He, among other people from Planit – my first job out of grad school – helped shape me in terms of how I approached my career. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it weren’t for all those people.
What were some of the biggest marketing failures you’ve launched with KFC and why did they fail?
Great question. I don’t think we’ve had true failures – but there are always things that you wish/hoped perform better. I think, generally, that we miss the boat when we let the execution drive the strategy. I know that’s a non-answer, but it’s also universally true for any campaign that didn’t deliver how we’d hoped.
How important is getting your master’s in a large corporation? Without one will you miss opportunities?
So I have a BBA and MBA – but I don’t think people need degrees to be successful in a large company. What’s important is the skills – and there are a lot of ways to get those. That’s just me though, some organizations are more credential-focused, and I’m definitely on the progressive side of the industry when it comes to that, so take it with a grain of salt.
How does KFC measure the impact of your social media? Which metrics are most important to that team?
We primarily look at overall reach of our messages and quality of engagement from fans – but it’s also not under my team’s specific purview so I may be misspeaking a bit there. Social – outside of ads – hasn’t been a big driver of action-oriented tactics for us thus far.
Thanks for taking your time to answer our questions! A bit of a generic question here but, what made you pick a career in marketing? Do you have any regrets?
Hoo boy. I took more science credits than almost anyone in high school, but took one marketing class senior year and fell in love with it. While I was in grad school I interned at an ad agency and fell in love with the idea of applying data to marketing in a way that digital channels only allowed. The rest is history.
I’ve always had that itch to pursue a data-driven decision making process, going back to those science classes. It just happened that marketing was ripe for an overhaul in that space just as I was starting my career.
Which of your digital marketing channels comparatively produces the least ROI?
We don’t worry a ton about comparing ROI across channels at the moment. I think it really has varied for us based on promoted offers and targets, so we’re still dialing in the right mix for any specific type of campaign.
How do you track performance on KFC?
Sales rules all! We look at a lot of things like store traffic via location data, surveys, different attribution models – but at the end of the day people are either buying fried chicken or they’re not.
Okay now for some tough questions. Favorite and LEAST favorite KFC menu items?
We just launched Chicken & Donuts – it’s incredible. I’m also a fan of the mac & cheese. For me, personally, not a huge fan of cole slaw despite the many devotees who’ve tried to convince me otherwise.
Wendy’s twitter account… has their approach impacted how you approach social campaigns?
Hmmmm that’s a great question and I don’t know if I have an answer. First of all – really appreciate their strategy and execution. It’s not right for us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in our minds when we’re looking at social. I’ll have to think about that one.
What would be your one piece of marketing advice to us all?
Just add value to the customer’s life. It’s really that simple IMO.
From a search marketing perspective, do you think there is such a thing as bad publicuty, or do you think these storms can be used to impluse the companies’ visibility for good?
A few years back there were some articles that spread some falsehoods about KFC – things like we changed the name to KFC because we can’t call it chicken anymore. Ultimately it became a call to action to us to set the record straight and be more open about our food story, which was good. That said, it would’ve been nice for that to be our strategy organically vs. being forced into it by some bad faith actors.
Based on my questions, I’ve learned you don’t have any true marketing failures, no true attribution for traditional marketing, and no comparison of ROI between digital channels. I think I speak for everyone here: how do you get away with this?
Ha, I didn’t say we don’t have failures! As for your other questions – I think we should all think about, as an industry, if attribution is as important as everyone seems to think it is. A relentless pursuit of optimization isn’t necessarily the best way to grow our businesses in the long term, and yet that’s what we’ve all been told is important in digital. It’s on us to coach the rest of the people we work with on the realities and limitations of digital and data and how that impacts our strategies. There’s no black & white here, despite how much people want there to be. Sometimes radical honesty means being upfront about what we realistically can and can’t do with confidence.
There’s a saying the attribution world “the real question is how wrong do you want to be”
I once asked an attribution company for confidence intervals and distributions of the dataset and they said that wasn’t possible. I’m far more interested in the distribution of our data than the average OR what the model output says. Give me the context and we’ll work with that.
Sounds like you were talking to the wrong attribution company
I agree though that for a company like KFC where so much of the marketing is awareness and so much of the sales are offline that accurate attribution is a total rabbit hole.
Yeah – we have a multitude of issues with attribution. If we were 100% DTC, it’d be a completely different story.
Did you educate your c-suite on your philosophy of ‘not needing to relentlessly attribute’ (paraphrased) or was this philosophy already in place, which allows you to operate as you do?
Our leadership team is extremely open to what we’re doing and don’t come into conversations with a ton of pre-conceived notions. They ask really good questions and do their homework. We don’t purport to have all the answers in the moment and often come back to them to correct things we say that we’re not 100% confident in.I’m completely aware of how blessed I am in that situation – but I think the onus is on us as an industry to work to educate as well as build strategies.
Hi, I’d love to know (if you were involved in any way) how the KFC X Crocs collab came into fruition and what the thought process was behind it. It looks super fun!
I wasn’t directly involved, but I know that our team thought it was a fun way to bring our brand into a fashion space again where we’ve dabbled before. They turned out amazing and Crocs was a great partner throughout the process according to those who worked directly with them!
What percent of sales is online?
Not as much as I’d like! It varies but generally it’s a couple of points on a daily basis.
I’ve been a long-time OGer (first time AMAer), so feel free to DM me any additional questions and I’ll answer all of them. Make sure to check out Chicken & Donuts – it’s delicious, and if you could buy online I’d really appreciate that haha.Also, come work with us! We’re always looking to hire smart, capable people like those in the OG community.
https://jobs.kfc.com/corporateThanks again for having me! Thrilled to have been able to do this – I appreciate all of you who make this community so great.
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