Feb 23, 2024
42 min
Episode 58

TOP CMO: Jay Livingston, Shake Shack - 'Marketing Meets Menu'

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  00:00

great storytelling always has authenticity running through it. So I think about that all the time. How are we creating emotion not just sharing information.

Ben Kaplan  00:08

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups. Re ideas packaged a certain way want to spread, they want to be told us someone else's simple, surprising and significant. Locking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Jay Livingston CMO of Shake Shack, a popular us fast casual restaurant chain originally founded in New York City as a single hotdog cart inside Madison Square Park. Shake Shack currently operates more than 400 locations worldwide. Jay brings a wealth of experience to his role at Shake Shack, overseeing not just marketing, but also culinary menu innovation, product development and supply chain. Before joining Shake Shack Ji was CMO at bark. The company known for its BarkBox pet subscription service. He was also a key leader at Bank of America, we rose to Senior Vice President of Global Marketing. So how can marketing be more effectively integrated with product development? And what strategies can be implemented to increase brand engagements and drive customer frequency in a competitive market? Let's find out with Jay Livingston. Jay, one of the things that's interesting about your role and how it's set up is this feedback loop between product development and marketing. It's not like products are developed, we got a new juicy hamburger that ends up on your doorstep che go market the heck out of it, it's intertwine and the processes are related to each other. So talk about how that works at Shake Shack and how that comes to be within your purview.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  01:53

Alright, so when I interviewed for the role of CMO at Shake Shack, I had some product development, product management, my background, and one of the things I've noticed that a lot of consumer facing businesses is, you know, it's that classic scenario where somebody develops the product, they hand it to marketing marketing goes and tries to sell the product. If it doesn't sell, they say, Hey, marketing, how come you didn't sell this as well as you could have. And I've always been a big fan of, I believe marketing, a lot of places should oversee product development because we are super close to the guest, you know, the guests insights analytics function is within my team. And there are a lot of benefits to having those two things embedded. So when I was interviewing, I said to Randy Groody, the CEO, hey, we would love to I would love to oversee product development, he said, Well, you're not really a food guy, you don't have a food background, yet we've got a whole team of chefs and food scientists and supply chain is part of that group. So why don't we give it a little bit of time and kind of see how that goes. And after about a year, year and a half there, I think it became clear there was some trust in my ability to kind of oversee that function. And you know, my role there is not to go in and say hey, the the acids aren't right in this product, or the mouthfeel is not doing what it's supposed to do. We've got lots of great people that do that.

Ben Kaplan  03:11

And you don't have a culinary background in terms of professionally, you might be a prolific lover of hamburgers, but you don't have that background. Correct.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  03:18

Okay, I don't have that background. But what I am good is doing is thinking like, what's the story we're going to tell around this product? Like how is this product going to resonate with everything we know about our guests, both from all the data and insights that we have, and also just our instinct. And you know, I sort of view my role in that as like a producer on a film, you're really balancing the creative, and the business side. And I think that's a big opportunity for a lot of marketers and a lot of places. And I think it's worked well here. So I get to oversee product development, menu innovation, also supply chain. And then of course, also the digital function here. So the development of our app web kiosk, delivery partnerships. So we really have a lot of control over that guest experience. From the ingredients we choose to the core menu and the LTS that we develop over time then of course how we market and sell them and even the the way our guests engage with them across our various digital platforms.

Ben Kaplan  04:15

Take me through an example so people can understand how this comes to life. I know on trend this past couple years is the chicken sandwich, you know you have specifically the hot and spicy chicken sandwich one of the sites that we run, called National today.com It celebrates all the holidays in the world gets 10 million visitors every month and we had a huge clamoring over National Chicken Sandwich Day. That was a big day caused lots of debates on the site. So how does this sort of relationship between product marketing or product development and marketing impact something like your rollout of a chicken sandwich?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  04:49

Well, I'll give you an example actually because that's a that's a great one to lean into. So hot chicken has been a huge product obviously for a while we lost our chicken sandwich six or seven years ago and it's been big hit. I think the AP ranked is the number one chicken sandwich out of 70 or 80, fast food and QSR fast casual restaurants. And when we first launched, we also have had a hot chicken sandwich that we've run as an LTO. LTO stands for limited time option for shorter periods of time. And as hot and spicy chicken sandwiches have gotten more popular over the last few years, we were losing a little bit of that novelty when we rolled it out about once a year as a short term, menu item. So there's a really great show on first we feast called hot ones that a gentleman named Sean Evans does where he interviews people eating progressively hotter chicken wings.

Ben Kaplan  05:41

Sure. And there's viral moments in that it's known for being spicy. Yeah.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  05:45

So we said, you know, we're gonna develop this hot chicken sandwich again, what can we do to give it a little bit extra buzz from the start? The year before we had changed the spice level so that you could actually order different spice levels online when you ordered it. So you could get it normal hot, or what we called Fire. And that went over really well. So we said, what's another fun thing we can do that's very authentic to who we are. And we partner with Shawn and hot ones, to actually have them help us develop the sauce that we use for that hot chicken sandwich. And then what that also gave us was a built in media platform where Shawn was talking about the sauce all the time to his, you know, millions of followers and consumers. And we don't do a lot of mass advertising. Don't do a lot of advertising out there. So having a platform like that talking about this great chicken sandwich really gave it a lot of that additional buzz that helped the marketing and sales of the product quite a bit. And if we hadn't done that, from the very development of the sandwich, you know, we could have never done that later. And that's why I talk about building marketing into the product a lot. And where I think there's an advantage to CMOS overseeing product development as well.

Ben Kaplan  06:51

You alluded to limited time offers and seasonality, bringing things that are fresh and new. How important that is to think about that. And maybe for other marketers that aren't in industries, where that's commonly done, how important is it this trigger around scarcity, or just right now and your overall kind of marketing mix,

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  07:10

I'll tell you how it started. And then how we think about it. Now our roots are really in fine dining, you know, our origin was out of 11 Madison Park in New York City, which was one of the top restaurants in the world and make that burger that they served in the bars, essentially the burger that we're still serving now. And so that's really what makes us taste better, makes us a little bit more expensive, etc. But to keep that kind of culinary field going. We're always thinking about how do we how do we innovate on the classics, what are things that we can do to put out there that people are super excited about, it's very authentic to our culinary roots. And so we also like to do things that nobody else can do. So we recently did a white truffle burger as an LTO that lasted about two months, and then a black truffle burger a year later because it was such a hit. And you know, it's very hard. Most truffle oil out there is really kind of garbage. And we were able to find a family that does an amazing sort of truffle sauce that doesn't have a lot of the synthetic additives and so forth that give it the flavor that we felt really great about. And we've done a truffle burger for limited periods that got a lot of attention and brought a lot of new guests into our restaurants keeps things fresh. And so we're always looking to innovate that we have LT what we call LTO shakes at anytime. So if you go into a shack right now we'll have a special sandwich right now it's our Korean inspired chicken sandwich and burger will have special shakes going on. And we just think it keeps things interesting for our guests and gives us something to talk about. As we're out there in the food world trying to continually innovate

Ben Kaplan  08:43

those items. I mean, you mentioned there's new customers haven't been in before haven't been in for a really long time. There's existing customers giving them a reason to come back on the kind of those limited offers. What's the focus there? Is it 5050? Is it one, get the new people in the door because it's something interesting or get the tried and true back because there's something they got to try?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  09:00

I think it's three things, I think it's divided equally three of how I think about it, one, it's because we get a lot of organic social, a lot of press, we have a very good social media audience and so forth. It gives us something new to talk about that both the food press and the general presses is interested in, you'd be amazed at how much coverage we get for these LT O's when we actually put them out there. Secondly, for our core guests, it gives us more frequency, right because it brings innovative stuff to the menu that folks are excited to try. And then third, because of that additional press and exposure we get we do think it drives some traffic. So we get on people's radar in a place that they might not have considered Shake Shack or not really known our story before. So I really think it's got those three purposes when we do it.

Ben Kaplan  09:45

And do you ever do something a menu item where it's really done for PR purposes or Buzz purposes? I know one common we've done a lot of work at top with ice cream brands and chocolate brands and sometimes you'll do like a Limited Edition run. And it's a really small number, and no one's making their sales number by the quantity of these that are done. But it's interesting, it's newsworthy, it's something that reinforces a brand value. And so you do it, even though you're not going to sell that many Do you ever do things like that? Or is sales the driver of each item? Well, we

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  10:20

do, I would say there are two places where we'll do it. Occasionally, we do a lot of collabs with either up and coming chefs or some of the most famous chefs in the world where we'll take a spin on a Shack burger or one of our items and work with that chef and and sell it for two days at Madison Square Park in New York City in West Hollywood in LA. So we'll work on those collabs to really recognize those chefs and just keep things interesting that way, doesn't really scale. But it's a great story out there. The second place, we will do occasional partnerships, when you know, we want to be in the fabric of the cultural conversation. So HBO my this is a true story. My my first week I was at Shake Shack, I got a call from somebody at HBO and said, we're coming into our final season of Game of Thrones. And frankly, it's going to be a massive hit. We're not really looking to make any money on it. But we want to partner with a couple brands just to do fun things and get the story out there about this final season. So do you think we could do something together? And on the phone, we concepted, this concept of trocars burger and a dragon glass shake. And if you're a fan of the show, you know exactly what those things are? And said, you know, what if we put them out there, and you have to order it in valerian, which was the language that they wanted the houses used on the show, and we develop this amazing product because the culinary has to come first, we will never do a garbage product just for the if we don't love the product, it's not gonna go but this dragonglass shake was really amazing. Two cars was a really hot burger, we had this like great sauce with it. And it was a massive hit, we ended up combining with HBO, we had the throne down in the shop downstairs that we had lines wrapped around the block, you know, two times to sit in the throne, get your photo taken. And that was definitely a marketing promotion that we were just super enthused about. It had a great food item attached to it. And we will do those occasionally just for the for the attention,

Ben Kaplan  12:16

the excitement. How do you think then, with some of those promotions or campaigns, the location, the locals in certain markets, where you have roots, you're very well known in other markets, you're more competing with existing players, you're now a multinational company as well. So you're playing in places around the world? How does that factor in? Obviously, I can't think of industries will be more competitive, because you're gonna put some of the biggest brands in the world when you're in either fast food or fast casual. So how does location factor in what you're trying to accomplish? And being market specific and not one size fits

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  12:52

all? You know, we really have three communications platforms we talked about since we're on a marketing podcast and your listeners are probably interested there, of where we focus, right, we talk about our food raises the bar, this is our first principle. Our second is we're an asset to our communities. And I'll come back to that in a second. And then third, we're not just food, we're an uplifting experience, right? Because we know guests that come and engage with Shake Shack, they want to have that enlightened hospitality moment that Danny Meyer talks about, in his book, setting the table. It's more than just to have great food. But did I really get joy out of that thing. But back to being local. You know, we own them all in the US, except for airports and stadiums, we don't franchise and one of the reasons we do that is we really want to control that experience to be a part of the community. We work so hard to be a part of the community. I have a local regional marketing team with folks in a lot of our markets that are constantly doing local activations. We partner with local chefs on a lot of items. Because what we found is if someone says my Shake Shack versus a Shake Shack is nearby. In other words, Ben, if you say, Where are you calling in from right now?

Ben Kaplan  13:56

I'm in San Francisco right now.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  13:58

Okay, so if you say my Shake Shack is cow hollow, right? Like, we love that idea of somebody saying it's my Shake Shack, not just there's one because we're not a franchise, we want to be a part of that community. And that's where we know we really kind of got the guests when they call it mine. So anything we can do to be part of that community, we do donation days locally, I think I'm drinking my water out of a Shake Shack, pickleball club, mug, those are the kinds of things we want to engage with locally. So it's a big part of our overall marketing approach.

Ben Kaplan  14:29

And along with that, there's certain brands and I think Shake Shack gets into this territory where people are really passionate about it, right? I mean, you think of brands like you know, the apples of the world and many others where it's like, you know, partaking in the brand is almost a statement of who you are. Right? It becomes a it's more than just an affinity for the brand. And I think with the right audience, there's certain brands that do that and Shake Shack for certain audiences could do that. People who who say, Oh, I'm better because I know where to get a better or burger and and I think that's the best. So how do you find and think about your like raving fans or the people who are passionate? And what do you think to kind of leverage those people than just the person there who's out for a quick lunch and you're convenient, and they think you're a good option?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  15:13

Well, one is, I think our long history starting with, out of basically a hotdog cart and stand in Madison Square Park to try to raise funds for the park with this really elevated food for reasonable prices created crazy fandom, that, you know, I don't know if you're familiar with the story, but just had lines and lines, our tagline, if you will, is stand for something good. And the origin of that is standing in Madison Square Park for a better elevated product that was also going to raise funds to bring back to the park. And if you've been in Madison Square Park and seeing how beautiful it is, you know, a lot of that is from a lot of the money that was raised from our stand there. And but those lines were part of what we had from the very beginning. When we opened in countries around the world, we opened an Asian company country recently that we have to put in burger scalping rules, because there's so many people in line for so long, that they'll scalp the burgers outside of the line. So we'll say you can only buy three, and so you can't scalp them for $25 apiece. And we don't do any advertising in these places. We've never really done any mass advertising in the United States. So we get a tremendous amount of that just organic passion. It's a huge part of who we are. And we really try to lean into it any way we can. I mean, that's always the marketing dream is to be able to really have that organic passion with what we do. And we know what our guests love. They want us to be really authentic to our ingredients, our food, they want us to be innovating on those classics. And all that is and then they want us to the fabric of the conversation. We do partnerships and collabs all throughout the year with just other great brands that we think are super fun. We're doing that all to kind of keep that passion going through who we are.


If you enjoy this show, you'll love. Top of CEO. Top

Ben Kaplan  17:06

SEO is a business school case study telling the story behind the story and what you can learn from it from those who have faced the fire and come out the other side.


That was the challenge the team was faced 25% of it was gone. I found myself $282,000 in debt,

Ben Kaplan  17:23

how would you navigate through these trials and transform them into opportunities for growth and success? How do you build back up the business and get out of debt


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This is TOP CEO available wherever you get your podcasts.

Ben Kaplan  17:48

How do you think about what's next for Shake Shack? What's next for the brand? Are there markets you want to tap into that you don't? Or they're segments of markets that you want to do? What are the metrics you use? How do you think about growth? What does the future look like from a marketing perspective?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  18:04

Well, one is we're opening a shack somewhere in the world every four days or so. So it's a tremendous amount of growth. We're in 19 countries. Now what I think about a lot is, and this is one of the reasons I came to Shake Shack that I was interested in coming here. I love that period of accompanies growth where you know who you are, you know, you've got product market fit. And now it's time to really scale. Well. The challenge in doing that is you know, is when you hit that massive growth phase of scaling, how do you do that, but stay core to your values? How do you keep the quality of your product super high? That how do you keep the quality of your teammates and you know, you have the staff to be able to open new restaurants and have great general managers and great area directors and so forth. And that's the part of it that I really love. And I've seen I'm very focused on one building awareness of who Shake Shack is especially who moved out of New York City and out of the coastal areas much more into the rest of the country. Because a lot of people just don't know the the ingredient story they don't know the Danny Meyer story. They don't know our roots in fine dining. So telling that story is a big part, but also keeping our quality levels up. It just never sacrificing on anything we do as we scale. That's a challenge that if you take your eye off that ball, it can get away from you quickly.

Ben Kaplan  19:21

Is that why it was important to you? I mean, you have product development under your purview, but also supply chain, which is I mean, you do see some CMOS that have product development, you don't see as many with supply chain, but is that just feeling like you had to have that additional lever in terms of the parts that you control? Because you can do a great marketing campaign. It can be a great product on the sampling table when you take a bite, but then in the execution of that supply chain has a huge part and if you can't source the right ingredients at the right level of freshness and sort of do it then it all falls apart anyways. Is that why that's there? I'd like

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  19:54

to tell you that's the reason that works really well. But the true reason is Jeff on Musk Otto on my team who's been with Shake Shack, really since the beginning, oversaw both culinary menu innovation, product development as well as supply chain. And so when we decided to move that function, we really did want to break that function up. So it all came over to marketing. I think it is unusual that a supply chain function would be on on the marketing team. But because the teams are so embedded, we decided to move them together, I think it's worked out really well, we did get some of those benefits that you mentioned. But that really wasn't the thinking as the reason that happened. What I do love is, you know, we're really big into sustainable farming, like I've been to all our farms, I go see where we raise our pigs and our chickens and our cattle. And we're able to build that story into our marketing and our product quite a bit. So I've actually loved that those things came together that way. But that wasn't the full intended reason, if I'm being honest. And your

Ben Kaplan  20:53

prior CMO role, you were at bark, which is the makers of Bark Box, for people who don't know, it's kind of your subscription business related to pets that comes every month and a lot of other product lines related to that. What did you take with you from that job to now what did you kind of learn from sort of the BarkBox experience that makes its way into Shake Shack marketing?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  21:15

Why even back you up a little bit, if you don't mind and say so, you know, when I was an undergrad, I went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. And I knew I was pretty good. Of course, I wasn't really but I thought I was good at getting big groups of people to do things. And I was promoting concerts, I was running the student run concert board at Miami. And that was a little bit of my shtick. And I thought what's the nicest compliment to that that's very different from what I think I'm already good at. So the most prestigious jobs that were kind of hiring on campus were the consulting firms and the banks and the big banks. And they at the time had these programs, where you'd go to one of those programs, you'd sort of learn all about the bank and finance and technology for three years. And then you go to business school. And my thinking was, how about if I'm getting one of these programs at a major bank, I'll go learn all that. It'll complement my natural marketing skills. I'll go to Kellogg or Northwestern, and I'll come out I'll work in brand management, because that was the big focus at the time. So I ended up getting hired into the what's called the maps program at nation's Bank, which later acquired Bank of America. It is one of the great growth stories. You know, when I started, we were a super regional bank. And 16 years later, were the fourth most profitable company in the world, and just tremendous growth. So I went through the program, I rotated through product management, process reengineering, and at the end of it, I told the the Head of Marketing at the time, I really want to go to Marketing after business school, and she said, Come do one more rotation in marketing, we had bought a bank called Bowman's bank in St. Louis. So I went down there for a year, dove into the market and learned a lot about it and really loved it and ended up staying for, you know, 20 years and Bank of America. And I sort of managed every functional area of marketing strategy. At the company, at some point whether it was retail, commercial, small business, we obviously have huge wealth management and everything else. So it's such a great place to learn through all that. Yeah.

Ben Kaplan  23:12

And you're over there. 20 years, you rose to senior vice president global marketing. And I think you're gonna talk about the transition. I mean, really your whole career in that industry? And how do you go from that to pets? Right. So food after that, which

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  23:26

is the question I get sort of all the time. So after the financial crisis, we bought Countrywide, which was disaster, obviously. And then Merrill Lynch, and we had become this after being is really acquisitive, growth oriented company, we had become an aircraft carrier. And we were so big, even by federal guidelines, we weren't really allowed to grow our deposit base, you know, extensively other than organically, we couldn't acquire any more banks or companies. And so I was getting a little bit bored of that corporate job, frankly. And at the same time, I'd fallen in with a group of founders and investors in New York City, that were they often new people, most companies, as you know, most startups come from people with finance or technology backgrounds. And if they're a consumer facing business, six months in, they're a marketing company, whether they like it or not. And they just didn't run around with a lot of people that had marketing or advertising backgrounds. And so some of those folks started to ask me, Hey, would you look at this one business, I'm thinking about investing in or I've got a venture fund, and I've got a couple of these companies that are struggling, why don't you talk to them and advise them a little bit. And I was loving that doing that as part of having this big corporate job, it was getting me really close to the customer again, and these growth stories and these talented young founders, so I started investing in some of those businesses to get a little bit of a stake in the game. And the more I was investing in them, the more I realized, man, I love being back at this stage, where we're really like growing every day and it's got all the excitement around that. So I was coming up on a thing called the rule of 60 which at Bank of America you you can retire, when you hit the rule of 60, which is your age plus years of service. So for me that was like 41 years old. And I told him about a year out, I said, I'm going to retire and take some of the benefits that go along with that. And I'm going to take a year off, and I'm going to travel the world, I'm restoring old love to the West Village and learn to play guitar. I mean, I've been working since three weeks out of undergrad and was just dying to have some time, spend some time with my family, and at

Ben Kaplan  25:24

one place. So that rule of 60 and a lot of years in one place, you were pretty a lot of time.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  25:29

Yes, that's right. So so they said, Okay, after that go over the shock of it, they said, okay, and I thought, you know, I'm probably either going to be a full time investor or jump back in and be a CMO somewhere. So took a year off. And at the end of the year, I wasn't ready, I said, I want a little bit more time. And I was lucky enough to be able to do that. I took six more months. And after that six months, I had realized a couple of things. One is I didn't want to be a full time investor, because as I would sit in some meetings where we would look with venture funds, and we'd have all these companies come in in pitch, most of them I wouldn't be interested in and the occasional and I said, Man, I'd love to go help build that. So it really told me I'm a builder, I'll always do investing on the side because of all the benefits you get with that. But I really realized that I was a builder more than a full time investor. And then the second thing I realized is I was starting to miss a little bit of purpose in my life, I'd run through a lot of the projects, and I was just excited reenergized to jump back in so that background of angel investing along with Bank of America gave me the ability to move into that CMO role arc. So I was I started said should be a CMO. I love that growth company stage. My first year there, Mark was going to do about 250 million in revenue. And they were looking for their first CMO. And it really worked out well. Jumping in there. They were a little bit like What's this banker guy's story? Like, Why can he help us? But the angel investor had done gave me you know, a bunch of founders saying no, he's smart, he knows what he's doing. He'll be good for that. So started bark. And I'd say the one space I really didn't know, was hardcore digital marketing, because we had not done that at Bank of America. And I had a $70 million direct marketing performance marketing budget at bark, that was an entirely new space. I was at bark for about a year and a half really enjoyed that. And then Shake Shack called. And I'd always love to Shake Shack story, the stage of growth, you know, I've always said I want to work for a consumer facing business that makes a physical product that brings people joy, and both bark and Shake Shack really had that. So Danny i are I'm sorry, Randy and I went to coffee, our CEO really hit it off. And I just love the story. And it went from there, I ended up becoming Shake Shack for CMO. And then I'll finish this long story by saying the one thing I didn't really know, before I started performance marketing, that I decided to really build that function here at Shake Shack early before getting into mass advertising because I thought it was more attributable, I thought I would be able to build credibility faster by doing that. And that function has been great for us as a company, we've really built it up over time. So

Ben Kaplan  28:05

the BarkBox experience digital marketing finds its way and helps you prioritize that at Shake Shack is the 20 years of Bank of America. What does that teach you now you said it was been huge growth becomes an aircraft carrier difficult to move? What does that inform you with now as CMO of a trendy brand?

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  28:22

Well, big companies are such a great place to learn, right? All these processes that are part of scaling a brand. You learn from the very best in the world on that when you go to one of those really big companies, some people say you can learn some bad habits. But in a lot of ways I disagree. I'd say it's a great way you work around a lot of really talented people, you learn sort of, you know, in banking, you touch every part of a business and banking in some capacity, even the size of our company. If you wanted to get into food services at Bank of America, we had 10,000 people doing that somewhere. It's just such a great way to learn so many great business processes. I rotated around to probably 15 jobs over my time there and learned all these spaces. So you just take all those learnings straight into these other roles and I found it to be a great start that has informed a lot of what I do now.


Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. It's a Western with a sci fi twist but there's also a film noir plot running in the background and dinosaurs because why not right? Take the dinosaurs down a little bit. Okay, no dinosaurs, but a little bit of romance is always welcome.


Zombies Yeah, we have to throw some zombies in there. In your vision, our craft, top thought leader.com.

Ben Kaplan  30:06

Listen to the first draft again, back to the show. How do you think about hiring your team? And do you want people that have like deep experience in the food industry? Do you want people who maybe come from a background like yours and come from something completely different that might bring something different to the mix? What do you look for in terms of a great individual contributor, a great manager fits the culture or just really great skills, what do you look for when you're hiring,

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  30:34

I really look for three things. I love hiring athletes, and by athletes, I mean, I don't mean a traditional athletic background, although I'm great with that, too. But I mean, generalists, I want to hire someone who can, I love rotating people around in different jobs at the company where we can do that, I clearly came from that background as well, right, where I had a lot of different kinds of jobs and was exposed to a lot. So I think a very versatile backgrounds, because we can teach them often what they need to know within certain functions, at least to some degree. So that's something I think about a lot. Also curiosity. I really am interested in like curious people who have a documented history of getting out there and making things happen. That's something I really look for. And then the third is really that cultural fit, you know, we want to have fun together, life is too short, to not have fun to not be around people that you really enjoy working with. I do think that's the legacy of Danny Meyer, you know, thinking about teammates first having great team environments. And so I'm really looking for that cultural fit, are people going to push each other? Are they going to have the competence to hire someone that might have a different skill set and is going to push them, but that's going to get along as a charitable outlook on life and a sunny disposition? Those are really things that I look for as well, final

Ben Kaplan  31:50

question for you is, I think your investing background is interesting, because we get that I do another podcast called TOP CEO. And certainly a lot of CEOs have some type of either investing background, or they've served on boards, or they've been advisor. And that's common there. It's less common on the CMO side. For those other we have an audience of 1000s of CMOS, who are hearing this and saying like, Oh, I might be interested in some startups, I'd be interested in some investing. What do you think it brings to go through that? How do you look at the world differently as a result that and what should folks do if they want to maybe start getting their feet wet in something like that, that maybe is part of the C suite, but not the CMO part of the C suite.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  32:32

It's been one of the smartest things I've ever done, frankly, and I tell you early, why start doing it. I'll tell you a quick story. I met with this really well known venture capitalist in New York and I told him my philosophy, I said, I'm going to set aside a bunch of money, like a bucket of money. And I'm going to invest in these cash flowing solid businesses that sort of fly under the radar that people maybe miss might have really good fundamentals. And he looked at me he's like, that is the worst thing you can do. That's a terrible strategy. Or say, What do you mean, it's terrible strategy said, first of all, if you're going to just go after cash flowing businesses, those things, you're going to compete in New York City with a lot of the best investors in the world, including like me, that are going to be much better at investing those businesses than you are. He said, you should be investing in the most interesting businesses and the most interesting founders in spaces that you're passionate about. And then developing friendships, relationships, experiences within those spaces that you're interested about, right, the money off. And if you make money, great, if you ever make for money, any money on that, but but the true benefit you'll get out of that is all of those relationships, and being exposed to all these tabbies talented people that are doing these cutting edge things, because you'll apply that to your career. That was amazing advice. And it really changed the way I thought about the investments I was making, doesn't mean you chase the sexy stuff. But you chase things that super talented people that are just doing things that are you're really authentically interested in. So doing that has exposed me to so many, so many new ways of thinking. And you know, the way you do it is I think everybody in today's world thinks about having a side hustle or to like what do you want to do in your spare time and helping a couple of businesses and by helping it can be your advice, and sometimes your money really can open that up? What are you interested in? If you love cars? What are some businesses in the automotive space that you might be able to help a little bit with their marketing and then invest in them on the side if you love food, right? We know the food space is full of alternative investing, whether it was plant based proteins, whether it was new restaurant technology, you name it. So I think keeping your eye out of those things and reach out to a target. If you see some cool startup that you've heard about reach out and say can I help you with your marketing a little bit? And that's just a great way to start. I think

Ben Kaplan  34:53

we'll wrap up with this. It's the game we sometimes have played called overrated underrated. I'd love to hear your thoughts on In marketing, what is something whether it's a skill, a practice discipline that you think is overrated? And then what is something else that you think is underrated? We'll start with overrated. What do you think is like marketers talk about, you've been in some meetings about and you just think it has too much emphasis in the marketing mix. What's overrated.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  35:19

I think chasing the newest platform of some kind, can be really overrated and distracting for certain businesses.

Ben Kaplan  35:28

I mean, platform you mean like a social media platform? Like what's the new tick tock have something else? Or is that what you mean by platform? Like being someplace that's kind of emerging? Yeah.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  35:37

But fundamentally, you think about like, okay, the one of the first ways people communicated a mass scale newspapers were revolutionary, right in the United States and other places when the printing press came about, and they said, Oh, now we can communicate, write articles and have advertising to lots of people. And then radio came along, and everybody said, well, newspapers are dead, like, that's obviously going to kill that. And then television came along, and they said, well, radio is dead, you know, nobody's ever going to listen to radio, if you can actually watch the people. And then you know, these big distances between all these new technologies, right, but then the internet comes along, and it opens up an entire new way to communicate much faster and cheaper and easier. So are all those others going to be killed, and then social media, you start with the original like Facebook, and then you move through all these to where we are now, let's say tick tock is the biggest one. So those periods between all those are getting much shorter. The reality is they don't kill off all the other elements. Now, slowly over time, they were diminish, and we want to always experiment with a new platform is we want to put our finger in and see if this thing takes off, are we ready to take advantage of it. But I think that some companies are always chasing that new thing with their marketing. And I think you've really got to have a balanced approach, because sometimes a lot of money will flock to the new place. And suddenly, the efficiency of the old place got much better, it got much more attractive to advertise on etc. And so I just think it can be overrated chasing the trendiest thing. Now, it's probably underrated. I want to understand when any of these things get go, and I wanted to have sort of an early again, toe in the water to see if they take off, can we take some advantage of that. But I just think, you know, if you're going to business for the long term, you got to think about your marketing on the long term, too. And the reality is, there are a lot of ways to get to the eyeballs out there. It's not just the latest thing. And so

Ben Kaplan  37:27

overrated chasing the shiny new objects, and maybe that's a platform and underrated, then related to your success and Shake Shack success. What should people just be thinking of more about and devoting more time to and maybe it's the kind of thing that you always want to get around to this and you never do? And then you do it? You're like, oh, man, I should have been doing this all along. What is underrated in terms of your time and your efforts, your dollars in marketing budgets that people should be spending more time on? Well, at a high level,

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  37:56

I think authenticity and storytelling, they're always underrated, like, you know, people, people hear messages and connect emotion to things based on stories in storytelling. And one of the other side hustles I've had is I've executive produced a few films, and sort of kept my foot in that world. And the reason I did that is because I wanted to understand what's the peak storytelling form out there. It's filmmaking. And if you learn about that, what can you bring back and apply to your day job of selling hamburgers, and storytelling creates emotion. And great storytelling always has authenticity running through it. So I think about that all the time. How are we creating emotion, not just sharing information, I'll tell one quick story to ID that I think you might find interesting. When I was like 26, or 27. In Charlotte, I was working for Bank of America, I was this junior marketing executive. And we, they several companies loaned out marketing executives to the United Way for six weeks to help raise money. So we would go to all the companies in Charlotte and give a pitch on stage in front of the company and try to get them to give money out of their paychecks to the United Way. And so every day, you come back, you say, Okay, how much money did I raise from the five companies, and there was this older lady that every day would come back and she was crushing all of us on how much money she was raising, she was getting, like, 80% of these employees to contribute out of their paychecks. And I finally said, like, mod, I gotta go out with you and see what you're doing. Because I built what I thought was this incredible deck of saying like, Hey, you're gonna use the United Way at some point your life here, all the stats, here's the data, here's what impact it makes. I went out with Mod, and she gets up on stage and for this company, and she puts up one slide, and it's a picture of a woman holding a baby. And she said one of the United Way's Charities is a home for women. I'm in need. And she said, and this is Susan. And she told the story of Susan trying to survive. You know, being a single mother and having all this hardship and overcoming it all. And at the end of the story, there's not a drive in the house. He did not talk about the United Way. She didn't ask for specific buttons. She didn't do anything and people could not give, they could not get their checkbooks out fast enough. And that was such a great lesson to me, right? Like marketing and convincing people is emotion. It's creating an emotion, it's telling a story. It's not killing them with data and facts. And that is something that people constantly forget. Especially a lot of people that start tech oriented businesses or these other things if you're if emotion should be on your side. So that is what I think is ultimately underrated and something that I think about all the time with great marketing.

Ben Kaplan  40:53

Well, and I'll add one more thing that's underrated, just based on listening to you, which is having a diverse group of experiences, be an experienced collector, and learn from them. Whether you've been an investor or you've it sounds like learned a tremendous amount from work with startups. You were a film producer on the side, you learned about storytelling, and you learn from Maude and her pitch deck as well and how she tells stories as well. So collect experiences. Always be learning from those experiences and you're richer for it. And maybe that's a little underrated as well. When you say Jay,

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  41:29

I would totally say total agreement.

Ben Kaplan  41:31

Okay, well, there you go. I can tell you're a fun guy to chat with. We could chat all day. Jay Livingston, CMO at Shake Shack, best wishes for continued success and we'll look out for your your stories and your hot chicken sandwiches and your collabs and everything else to come. Thanks so much for joining us on TOP CMO.

Jay Livingston - Shake Shack  41:49

Thanks for having me Ben.


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