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It takes more than a solid history to make consumers continue to crave your offerings, and no one knows that more than White Castle’s chief marketing officer, Lynn Blashford.

White Castle’s Lynn Blashford updates ‘the crave’ for today’s consumer

The oldest fast-food restaurant in America relies on data as well as nostalgia

As the oldest fast-food chain in America, White Castle’s influence on the restaurant industry is backed by more than 100 years of serving square sliders. But it takes more than a solid history to make consumers continue to crave your offerings, and no one knows that more than the company’s chief marketing officer, Lynn Blashford.

Blashford has been leading branding and marketing for White Castle’s “legion of cravers,” as she puts it, since 2020, though she has been with the marketing team for 13 years in total. As the CMO of the Columbus, Ohio-based brand, Blashford uses nostalgia and tradition as tools to drive two of the most crucial aspects of White Castle’s continued success: fandom and frequency.

“We are really embracing a way that brings together two components of our business: the love of our brand and the more functional nature of driving traffic to the castles,” she said.  “We know we have such a love [for this brand] over generations, and how do we harness some of that power? Some of our cravers might actually be very infrequent customers because they live far away. We’re not around every corner, so that might not be the everyday performance metric.”

Creativity and fun, backed by data and metrics performance, is the key to unlocking sustained performance and brand relevance, even for cravers who live far away from a White Castle location, according to Blashford. For example, White Castle’s creative culture is fully on display during the company’s annual Love Castle tradition on Valentine’s Day, which has been serving unconventional romance for 33 years. Further fueling the nostalgia train is the company’s continued relationship with the cult-classic movie, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.” The movie will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and White Castle is planning a celebration starting on April 20.

Although brand nostalgia has kept White Castle rooted, Blashford’s strategy — driven by data and digital loyalty — is sending the company into the future.

“Marketers today have so much information and access to data at their fingertips —between business intelligence and consumer insights data — that it really does become our job to rise above all that and become curators of information,” she said. “With all the information you have in disparate places, you really have to be a curator nowadays, and bring it all together in what’s most meaningful to differentiate your brand.”

Another crucial part of the modern marketing machine is learning how best to utilize celebrities and influencers in a way that feels most authentic to the brand, Blashford said. Last fall, she helped to launch a partnership with hip hop artist Fat Joe in tandem with the release of White Castle’s new Night Castle merchandise, which promoted the company’s new approach to late-night cravings. This worked naturally because Fat Joe was already a big fan of the company and had posted recently about going to White Castle after seeing a boxing fight at Madison Square Garden. Most of the time, however, White Castle’s partnerships are more with micro-influencers than larger celebrities.

“We’re an authentic brand. We’re very approachable and don’t have any pretense about us,” Blashford said. “So, it's just a natural extension to work with people who are of that similar vein. [We ask], ‘What is authentic about them in their community? Why are people following them?’… Also, we think of ourselves as a small and mighty brand, so we should be working with micro-influencers.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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