Hear how Jack in the Box is positioning itself as a challenger brand
Jack in the Box is gathering consumer feedback to help clarify what the brand represents, aiming to stand out with foods people actually crave—and, possibly with a new tagline—rather than following the lead of bigger fast feeders.
“We believe that we are the curly fry in a world of regular fries,” said Adrienne Ingoldt, senior VP, chief brand and experience officer. “We’re a bold challenger brand.”
Ingoldt, who had her share of Jack in the Box tacos while growing up in Los Angeles, joined the chain about four years ago and was recently elevated to the chief brand and experience officer role. (Previously, Jack in the Box had a chief marketing officer, Iwona Alter, who left in 2018 and is now chief brand officer at The Habit Burger Grill.)
San Diego-based Jack in the Box has been through some changes as it tries to compete against industry behemoths such as McDonald's, which is more than 10 times its size. It sold the Qdoba chain to Apollo in March 2018. Then, in October 2018, franchisees sought new leadership. Yet, CEO Lenny Comma is still at the helm. In December 2018, Jack in the Box said it was exploring a range of alternatives, including a possible sale of the company. That didn’t pan out and in May the company announced its plan for a new capital structure and the board’s confidence in Comma.
Now, Jack in the Box is listening to consumers on product development and brand identity. They may even help the chain find a new tagline, Ingoldt said on the latest edition of Ad Age's Marketer's Brief podcast.
“We have spent the last few months digging into the core equities of the brand. There is so much fruitful fodder for us to work with that it isn’t about redefining something new, it’s really about scraping away the clutter and honing in on who we are at the core,” she said.
Jack in the Box is also trying to stand out beyond its ads, which continue to feature the Jack Box spokesman character and his oversized ball head. Its activation at the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas in September included a bacon slide and taco seesaw. The activation garnered 98 percent positive sentiment, Ingoldt said. Also on hand was Baddie Winkle, the 91-year-old Instagrammer, who promoted the brand to her followers.
“We’re really focused on creating our own cultural moments and working our way into these spaces where consumers are already playing and living and expressing themselves and their individuality,” said Ingoldt.
Other efforts include its pact with Team Envy in esports; a partnership with Paramount Pictures for the upcoming “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie; and a Funko collectible resembling the Jack Box mascot. Jack in the Box is also planning a new “snackable” product in time for the Super Bowl. It won’t run a Super Bowl spot but is planning an online approach to get people’s attention, said Ingoldt.
Rather than chase trends, such as plant-based patties, Jack in the Box pays attention to what Ingoldt describes as “transgressive food culture.” And, as she says, if the brand were ever to serve kale, she’d guess it would be fried.
In fiscal 2019, which ended in September, the company posted its ninth consecutive year of same-store sales growth, a rise of 1.3 percent. It’s calling for same-store sales to increase 1.5 to 3 percent in the current fiscal year 2020.