Trix van der Vleuten – KFC

Trix van der Vleuten – KFC

Trix van der Vleuten is CMO KFC Northern Europe. She is responsible for the long-term growth of the brand in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scandinavia. Trix: “At KFC we work on local basis. From packaging, to the website, to the app and tv commercials; we have the freedom to develop everything ourselves.”

Main KPI’s for growth

According to Trix, KFC’s main KPI is penetration: “We look at penetration, of which the ‘top-of-mind awareness’ KPI is an interesting indicator. This Brand/Marketing KPI has our main focus. When people don’t think of KFC when they are hungry, we are doing something wrong. Beside the marketing KPI, our most important KPI is the same store sales growth. Which means how much extra growth we have realised based on existing restaurants, which have been open for over 12 months. When it comes to KFC’s main drivers for growth, Trix mentions their growth calendar: “We establish our calendar based on our brand strategy: relevant, ease and distinctive. Relevance and ease revolves around our products; the taste, the way the food is prepared and whether it is up to our standards and if our products and stores are easily accessible. And also, whether we are present in the mind of consumers. Distinctiveness is more focused on our creative side; who we are as a brand. Our brand revolves around ‘Unapologetically Confident’: a term we use for bold marketing. When we do things, we do them with creativity and impact. A great example is our 100% vegetarian restaurant in the Netherlands this year.”

Role of creative

“In a market where there are so many brands asking for your attention, creativity is rewarded” Trix continues. “Especially among the younger generations. Because we aren’t the market leader, we have to behave like a challenger brand. We need to be more creative with our budget, to break through. Creativity is very important to us and is appreciated by consumers. When creativity realises impact, you will be rewarded by your consumers through engagement.” Trix shares a few requisites when it comes to creativity: “When I evaluate creativity, I always look at whether it is something we can claim as a brand. Can we make it KFC? Secondly it needs to be bold. Will it blend in or will it have the potential to stand out? And lastly, it needs to contribute to the product. Bottom line is that we are business marketeers and creativity can and should definitely contribute to that.”

Ideas can come from anywhere and everyone. Trix: “Anyone can have a good idea; it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a marketeer or agency. I often share ideas with people who have nothing to do with our business. Because sometimes you can be biased, making you somewhat blind. That is why I always try to find someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic, to see if it makes them smile. If they have to think it over too much, it’s not a good idea.” Trix mentions that around 90% of the KFC calendar is established beforehand. The other 10% is their playing field: “You will always have a routine and things that need to be done. But you also need to have the possibility and space to come up with a brilliant idea and bring that extra magic to your calendar. We find inspiration from so many different places. Instagram, food trends and we also have inspiration classes. Once a month we take an inspiration tour where we visit restaurants (KFC’s and others) to see what the market has to offer. As a marketeer, you should always keep looking outside your organisation and your category.”

Creative success

As KFC is a commercial organisation, their creatives should always deliver on a commercial level: “Sales is an indicator for the success of our creatives. But that can also be translated into top-of-mind awareness, which will help sales or behavioural change in the long term. Creatives don’t always have to translate into sales in the short term, of course ideally yes, but they do need to contribute to the long term.” Creatives are also influenced by the channel they find themselves in. Trix: “Some creative ideas, such as a vegetarian restaurant, might be dull on a website but are brought to life in the restaurant itself. Creativity depends on the channel you place it in. And you need to look at it from that angle. Which is something we discuss with our agency. Something might not work as a print ad, but when the creative could generate a lot of engagement, it could work in a digital environment.”

Nuances from consumers

Trix shares that pre-testing might not always be the best option, as some creatives ideas won’t really work until they are brought to life. “Some things are difficult for people to imagine. Which is why I prefer testing as a way of guidance and refinement, instead of using it as a decision-making factor. A consumer won’t tell you exactly what to change in a tv commercial. As a brand, you need to know what you represent; where creativity can contribute where you need nuances from the consumer to develop that idea further and bring it to life.”

Creative challenges

With all things, creativity comes with its challenges. Trix: “The difficulty in creativity, especially within corporations, is keeping the idea as open-minded as possible. When creatives go through the corporate funnel of approval, ideas are often toned-down. The pitfall is making those creative ideas lose the essence they were built on and lose strength. The advantage of a corporate organisation is that you can make creative ideas big, as we have budget and the audience to share it with nationally. Challenge is that creatives need to be nurtured, in order to keep their strength. Next to that, I often find that people are reluctant to disagree with an agency. It’s a difficult situation when a creative agency has worked hard on an idea, and you don’t like it. But trying to pitch an idea within the organisation that doesn’t make you happy anymore, does not work. I encourage people to be honest and spend enough time on the briefing. And keep in mind that a good briefing makes choices. Creativity is about making choices, and not having 15 different things in your briefing. Write down what you want. I often use this metaphor for a briefing to my team: make a small box and 1 big question. I find that it brings out the best, creatively. Having a clear, concise question, within a framework. Every briefing needs to start with the long-term in mind and the need to be consistent. Creativity keeps the long term in mind, with the relevance of today.”

Make great work!

Trix looks ahead on what the future of creativity might hold: “I think that creativity will be rewarded even more. When I look at how creative young people are making spin-offs of commercials and campaigns, I think that user generated content will be used more and more by brands. Next to that, I think brands and companies will become more socially aware of what they contribute to the world. With that said, creativity needs to be authentic. You need to put in the work and practice what you preach. Just look at Nike. You know that their social campaigns – such as their contributions to the BLM-movement – are part of the company and truly reflect their core values. Creativity in advertising is derived from what is happening in society and reflects where we are in time. I think that marketers can be prouder and show real guts to take our profession seriously. Make great work! Because when we do, it puts a smile on everyone’s face!”