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In the dynamic landscape of modern business, companies must remain agile and responsive to succeed. A crucial aspect of this resilience is the ability to reposition their brand, when necessary, whether to reach a new target market, respond to changing technologies or competitors, or appeal to emerging generations of consumers.
In this article, Alessandra Montrasio (Alessandra), a ‘Fortune 40under40 Leader’ and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at EXKi – a quality fast-casual restaurant chain – explains EXKi’s brand repositioning project and highlights the important role of CRM and digitalisation in this critical process. Based on her extensive marketing experience, she also discusses the key considerations for businesses when designing a CRM strategy.
- Brand Repositioning at EXKi
- Overcoming the Challenges
- Designing CRM Strategy
- Alessandra’s Marketing Journey
- Final Thoughts
- Lessons Learned
Brand Repositioning at EXKi
EXKi is a Europe-based fast-casual restaurant chain with over 80 locations in five countries. More than 20 years ago, the visionary founders opened their first restaurant in Brussels to provide consumers with healthy, tasty, and sustainable meals on the go, a concept ahead of its time.
Now, 22 years later, EXKi has reached a phase of maturity and needs to step up as now everyone is talking about sustainability. EXKi does not want to be just neutral to the planet and the communities; it wants to start talking about the regenerative economy, be a force for good, have a positive impact and become a real game-changer.
The brand has been evolving over the past 22 years, however, in the past three to four years, the business has seen many challengers and competitors, necessitating a brand revamp to give it a new edge, and a new unique selling proposition to differentiate itself further. It has undertaken a massive brand repositioning exercise in pursuit of its mission.
Alessandra is leading EXKi’s brand repositioning efforts as the CMO of the company. Her other areas of work include assortments and new product development; communication, marketing and digital; brand image, visual identity and renovation of all restaurants vis-à-vis brand repositioning. She outlined the company’s efforts in various areas towards brand repositioning.
1. Attracting a New Target Audience
EXKi’s historical customers are the people who know the brand for 20 years and are real brand lovers. These are slightly older people, in their 40s or 50s, especially in the home country of the brand, Belgium. The company is trying to attract even the younger generation, Gen Z and millennials, who currently know the brand just as one of the many brands among all the possibilities.
EXKi, primarily an offline business, is currently focusing on improving its digital presence and website to reach out to its existing and potential customers. With 95% of its business conducted offline, the brand is now optimising its digital ecosystem to get closer to its target audience.
3. Customer Communications
EXKi’s communication until now has been very traditional with leaflets, billboards, etc. With digitalisation, it hopes to better connect and interact with the target audience.
4. CRM Platform and Strategy
Alessandra is pushing for launching EXKI’s own CRM platform and strategy as she believes that it will bring tangible benefits for brand repositioning. She is also cognisant of the fact that the results will not come on day one, particularly because EXKI’s business is currently predominantly offline. However, CRM is important for its brand repositioning efforts to understand customer preferences and needs and guide brand repositioning strategies.
5. Enhancing the Customer Experience
EXKi is exploring novel methods to improve the customer experience, for example, changing the food delivery process and implementing innovative mechanisms like connected fridges and vending machines installed at offices. The customers can obtain fresh salads and meals directly from the fridge, and can also order their meal in advance and pick it up from dedicated shelves in office buildings during lunchtime.
Overcoming the Challenges
Alessandra spoke about the main challenges in EXKi’s brand repositioning journey and how they were geared up to overcome those challenges.
One external challenge is the infrastructure. We are very ambitious about the digital development of the brand and the overall experience in the restaurant – we are not focused on digital, but we want to be digitally enabled. So, we are exploring all the possibilities that digital can provide, and even AI to make the experience of a customer as flawless as possible in restaurants. However, being in some ancient neighbourhoods of European cities sometimes poses a certain level of technical constraints like cabling and internet connectivity.
Another barrier to overcome is internal, specifically related to change management. Resistance to change is a common challenge in organisations, and we are actively working to address it. We are taking steps for managing change by promoting a culture that embraces innovation and continuous improvement.
The good thing about EXKI is that it still maintains a startup mentality. So compared to the corporate world, things go very fast. Alessandra also feels fortunate to have a team that is highly engaged and passionate about the project and is ready to go the extra mile for its successful completion.
Designing CRM Strategy
Alessandra emphasised that you should approach CRM strategy in the overall context of your business, what are you trying to achieve and how CRM can be of help. She highlighted the need for customisation and continuous assessment and modification of the CRM strategy to suit the business requirements.
To effectively utilise CRM, it’s crucial to treat it as a customisable tool, tailored to meet specific business needs. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work here. For instance, if the business objective is to retain customers and maintain a long-term relationship, the CRM strategy could be centred on the client’s lifetime value. However, if the challenge lies in increasing the frequency of purchases, a more tactical approach is necessary, like, compensating for lulls in sales with promotions during off-peak hours.
Continuous Assessment and Modification
It’s important to continually evaluate the business needs and adjust the CRM strategy accordingly. If the aim is to increase repeat consumption, the approach will differ from that of boosting customer loyalty and advocacy. Additionally, the same brand may require a different CRM strategy in different markets, as Alessandra experienced while working for a bottled water brand. In one market where the brand was well-known, the focus was on earned media advocacy and deepening the consumer relationship. However, in a market where the brand was a challenger, the focus was on acquiring and retaining new customers.
Alessandra’s Marketing Journey
Since the beginning of her career, Alessandra has always worked in marketing, having done every type of marketing – B2B, B2C, strategic marketing, operational marketing, digital marketing and also traditional marketing, before the digital era. She has marketing experience of working at a local level in one single market and also at a global level with a scope of over 40 markets worldwide.
She has spent most of her career in one company, Nestle, working in different profiles. Nestle being so huge, her work experience there gave her lots of variety and the opportunity to work with lots of people and different businesses. For more than six months now, she is the CMO of EXKi, currently focusing on the exciting brand repositioning project.
In what can be considered one of her biggest career highlights, in 2022, Alessandra was chosen to be one of the ‘Fortune 40under40 Leaders’. It was a sweet surprise for her when one afternoon she suddenly started receiving congratulatory messages. She believes there are three important elements that define her as a marketer – curiosity, empathy and a passion for storytelling.
Alongside her marketing roles, Alessandra has also been deeply involved in speaking for female leadership and coaching women to be badass leaders with empathy and kindness.
Alessandra believes that we are in a pivotal moment for women in the workforce as now we have women leaders who are role models for the younger women – Jacinda Ardern (ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Bozoma Saint John (American businessperson and ex-CMO of Netflix) being her role models.
As a concluding thought, she said, I’m not the Prime Minister, I’m not the CMO of Netflix, but I still try to be a positive role model for younger girls that are at work.
|1||In today’s constantly changing business environment, businesses should be ready to evolve|
|2||CRM strategies can play an important role in brand repositioning|
|3||Businesses with a predominantly offline business model also need to adapt to a digital ecosystem|
|4||Customisation, continuous assessment and modification are mandatory considerations while designing a CRM strategy|
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