Creatively Trailblazing

The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by [author name], this chapter is titled “Creatively Trailblazing.” In it, Jill Baysa, the founder of Potato Corner, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in staying on top of the industry.   


Potato Corner was founded in 1992, but their dedicated marketing team was a recent  creation. The current CMO, Jill Baysa, led its founding back in 2017 and still sits as its leader today.  

Even though they lacked a formal marketing team for 25 years, Baysa explained that Potato  Corner was not without any advertising. For them, it was enough to have their kiosks as  their main form of advertising. It wasn’t until Baysa came in that they began to utilize social  media for their marketing as they got to know their customers better.  

“It’s so important to be on social media now because it’s our way to be at the pulse of our  consumers,” Baysa said. “Social media is where we can touch our consumers where it’s  most relatable for them.” 

For a brand like Potato Corner whose main markets are kids and “kids-at-heart,” learning  how to use social media was very helpful for Baysa. Many of the kids they appealed to  years ago have grown up into teenagers and adults, with some even having families of their  own now and even becoming their partners and franchisees―all of these people are now  online. Baysa also pointed out how many people most likely have lived their whole lives  knowing Potato Corner, having built trust in the brand; Baysa wants to nurture that trust,  turning it into brand loyalty as they get to know their customers better.  

On their social media pages, they post advertisements and memes to get engagement  and communication flowing between them and their consumers. For Baysa, the main  characteristic she wants Potato Corner to exhibit through their brand is friendliness.  Potato Corner, especially online, has to be approachable to everyone.  

She said, “Social media is our way to reach out to the youth and young adults today, because  they’re the ones that grew up with the brand.” Currently, they’re present on Facebook and  Instagram as Potato Corner, while their mascot, Spudster, is on TikTok. “We want to be  present wherever the kids and youth today would be. So that’s really the initial thought  because that’s always the intention. Where are the kids, and how do we reach them?” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of their kiosks closed due to quarantine  regulations, it became more meaningful than ever for Baysa and her team to be approachable  on social media. “We still want to be friends with you guys,” Baysa said. “Social media lets  us be present in a way that people don’t get turned off, and that’s how social media helps  us touch our consumers in a way that our stores now can’t.”  

While being approachable and friendly are important, Baysa shared that for her and her  team, it’s also just as important to be creative in their marketing attempts. They want to  make their mark however possible, especially when going against bigger brands. “One of  the things we love about being in Potato Corner, especially in marketing, is that we are able  to really stretch our creativity and imagination and to come up with the most audacious plans and executions that we can think of,” Baysa shared. 

This was how National Fries Day in the Philippines came to be. National Fries Day is  celebrated every July 13 worldwide. Upon learning of it, Baysa and her team capitalized on  the idea, launching Potato Corner’s own National Fries Day in 2018.  

For their very first National Fries Day, Potato corner offered a promo―for every mega  fries purchased, you get one large fries for free. However, July 13, 2018 was a stormy,  payday Friday, which caused Baysa to lower her expectations for their sales. Instead, she  was proven wrong when there were long lines at their kiosks and people talking about the  promo online. National Fries Day 2018 subsequently won awards for its success, such as  the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) Media Awards in Singapore last January 2019, and the  Franchise Excellence Awards Best Marketing Campaign given by the Philippine Franchise  Association in August 2019.  

Baysa and her team celebrated National Fries Day again in 2019. This time, they changed  the mechanics based on the inputs and experiences of their customers and kiosk workers  from the previous year. Rather than a buy-one take-one promo, their jumbo fries were  reduced to PHP50.  

In 2020, National Fries Day pushed on as usual. “Our sales almost managed to level with  2018, which is good, because due to the pandemic, we have re-calibrated our targets for  2020 and hitting the sales equivalent to our 2018 was better than we had hoped for,”  Baysa said. “But this year, we reverted back to the buy-one take-one mechanic, which we  knew would be better perceived this year, considering less foot traffic as well in stores.” 

Another notable campaign Baysa led is the creation of Potato Corner Craze, also known  as PC Craze, a mobile game conceptualized and developed by her and her team “From the  inception of the graphics to all of the internal, nitty gritty of the game, even the characters,  everything was developed in-house,” Baysa explained. “Only the app was worked on by a  third party.” 

The game has the player acting as a Potato Corner kiosk staff member, catering to orders  and serving customers. After the player accumulates a certain amount of coins in-game,  the coins can be used to purchase real free fries. 

“So what happened was—we didn’t even do a lot of media on this—we just posted it once.  No boosting, we said we will try to have this game out first in beta mode, you can play, and  we will course correct accordingly. However, it’s been downloaded more than 350,000  times in its first two weeks and was the number one free game app in iOS and Google Play  for those weeks,” Baysa said.  

The game was very successful, but it was also challenging to keep up with as people began to flock to them for their free fries. Due to the sudden increase of players and customers,  their game developer’s system and servers crashed and people were also complaining of  the long lines. 

Baysa finds it important to listen to feedback when working on campaigns and strategies,  both from the brand’s consumers and her coworkers. “For me, marketing is really about  having that opportunity to learn from each other, bounce back ideas, and then grow  together,” she said. “It really comes down to the trust between you and your teammates.” 

The passion for creativity is something present not only in Baysa, but her marketing team  as well. “It’s really about keeping that mentality of just trailblazing. So the most audacious  of the ideas you can present, try it and see if it works. If it comes across some difficulties,  then you course correct, but you don’t stop trying,” Baysa said. “What I love about Potato  Corner is that there’s so many things that you can do. And like I said, the crazier it is, the  more encouraged it is.”

 

To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Jill Baysa, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


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