Steve Robinson, author of Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows, and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand
Bill Ringle and Steve Robinson discuss the pivotal decisions and marketing campaigns that built Chic-fil-A into a national brand with lessons for small business leaders.
>>> Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth. My Quest for the Best is a top-rated small business podcast with over 300 episodes of thought-provoking and insightful interviews with today’s top thought leaders and business experts. Host Bill Ringle’s mission with this show is to provide the strategies, insights, and resources that will unlock the growth potential of your business through these powerful conversations.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Customer experience is the best marketing. When customers are happy, they not only come back, but they recommend you to others!
- Advertise your product in a way that gets people talking.
- Never be an absentee owner. Instead, be involved and active in your business.
Read the Show Notes from this Episode
- The massive difference between passive responses like ‘OK’ and the generic ‘you’re welcome’ and the words ‘my pleasure’ delivered with eye contact and a smile creates a measurable difference in customer service. This is a tip learned from studying operations at the Ritz Carlton hotel, Apple stores, and other places where top service is experienced. [01:25]
- Ritz Carlton is as far from the chicken industry as you can imagine, but hospitality applies to every business. Truett Cathy gave his team the hospitality edge no matter the source. [03:55]
- Chick-fil-A’s hospitality earned them regular customers and free publicity, almost doubling their sales, as customers shared their experience with Chick-fil-A. [06:28]
- Steve shares his perspective on a nearly 6-month hiring process to be hired by Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, as the company’s first dedicated marketing professional. [07:54]
- Confused at first with what his boss wanted from him as a marketing manager, Steve quickly learned his role through the support and encouragement of Truett Cathy. [10:05]
- How a cow ended up as the best salesman for chicken sandwiches. Steve shares the origin of the popular Chick-fil-A mascot. [13:23]
- When people buy not just your primary product (food), but cow merchandise like t-shirts, toys, and even calendars, you know you have succeeded in creating an iconic brand. [18:26]
- Stan Richards said, “if people love your advertising, they’ll love your brand.” [20:01]
- Chick-fil-A’s brand strategy: We said we want to be known as the premium fast-food brand that truly cares for its guests but also has fun. [20:03]
- Avoid doing things that make you look like everybody else in your industry. [21:03]
- What it means to be the ‘mayor of the mall.’ [26:07]
- My Quest for the Best lightning round begins. [29:09]
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Steven A. Robinson is the former Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Chick-fil-A, Inc., 1981-2015.
Prior to joining the company, Steve was the director of marketing for Six Flags Over Georgia theme park in Atlanta, Georgia. This role was preceded by marketing positions at two other Six Flags properties and as a communications manager at Texas Instruments.
After beginning his career at Chick-fil-A as director of marketing, Steve went on to serve as vice president of the department before becoming chief marketing officer. In his most recent role, he was responsible for overseeing marketing, advertising, brand development, menu development, and hospitality strategies.
In addition to serving on Chick-fil-A’s board of directors (2016-2018), Steve serves on several boards for organizations and ministries, including FamilyLife, Fellowship of Christian Athletes of Atlanta, Links Players International, Atlanta Hall Management & College Football Hall of Fame, and the National Football Foundation.
He holds an associate degree in business administration from Faulkner State Junior College, a Bachelor of Science in marketing from Auburn University, and a master’s in advertising from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Steve and his wife, Dianne, have two children and four grandchildren.
Contact Info and Social Media for Steve Robinson
Resources Mentioned During the Interview
Below are key people, places, books, quotes, websites and other resources that we discussed, so you can explore further.
- Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A
- Chick-fil-A corporate site
- The original Chick-fil-A diner, called the Dwarf House, was established in 1946.
- The Richards Group, advertising partner to Chick-fil-A
- Blue Ocean Strategy and the Blue Ocean Strategy book, used by the Chick-fil-A executive team
- The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl