Shake Shack is on a growth tear. Here’s how its first chief marketing officer plans to use his angel investing, film production, and political activism background to steer the brand through its next phase.
- Shake Shack’s first CMO Jay Livingston’s career has spanned not just marketing but angel-investing, film production, and politics.
- That background has helped him as he looks to take Shake Shack to the next phase, he told Business Insider.
- Working with startups taught him the importance of owning the customer relationship, while film production helped him hone his storytelling, he said.
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Chief marketing officers today must move faster than ever to reach consumers, combat direct-to-consumer startups, and use technology and data.
But while many CMOs figure this out in their day-to-day jobs, Jay Livingston took an uncoventional route, turning to angel investing after more than 20 years in marketing at Bank of America.
That, and his stint as the marketing chief of pet subscription brand Bark has better prepared him for his current role as Shake Shack’s first CMO than anything else, Livingston said in a recent interview with Business Insider at Social Media Week.
“It really allowed me to get close to cutting-edge, young companies, and that really informed what we started to do before I left Bank of America,” said Livingston. “Staying close to what’s happening at different companies in different industries at different levels of scale is really valuable as you think about the things you do, whether social media or any other area of marketing.”
Since 2012, Livingston has invested in and advised startups including lingerie maker Fleur du Mal, Ample Hills Ice Cream, and office management platform Managed by Q, which was recently acquired by WeWork. Working with these startups and at Bark taught him new marketing tactics and the importance of the customer relationship, he said.
“At Barkbox, we were spending 50,60, 70 million a year on paid social; I didn’t even know what paid social was at Bank of America,” he said. “Similarly, my DTC experience taught me a lot about having a personal, one-on-one relationship with customers.”
Three months into his Shake Shack job, Livingston is working on getting better customer data, which is why he believes in brands doing as much of their marketing themselves. Shake Shack spends heavily on social media, partnerships, and word-of-mouth marketing, and does most of its marketing in-house.
“As you grow these companies very quickly, sometimes your technology, your data farms and your ability to pull data doesn’t grow as quickly as the business. We want to bring all of that in,” he said.
Livingston also dabbles in film, having served as the co-executive producer of “Galveston” in 2018 and “Driveways,” which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. He is a founding member of Unite America, a political organization that aims to elect moderate independents to the US Senate. While the former has helped him hone his storytelling, the latter helps him use data creatively.
“A crew on a film set can be very similar to a crew that you want on production in-house, and political polling is data gathering and very similar to marketing,” he said.
Shake Shack is rapidly expanding and its shares have soared 37% this year. As the company grows, Livingston sees pick-up and delivery driving the business, which means that data will play an even bigger role in its marketing.
“The advantage of that shift is that it’s given us the ability to capture so much more guest data,” Livingston said. “Through the app and through delivery, we’re going to be able to gather a lot more customer data and create more personalization.”