Wingstop says Christina Clarke is now its chief marketing officer, officially giving her the role she had been filling on an interim basis since early September.
Clarke joined Wingstop as VP of marketing in October 2018. She was elevated to interim CMO on Sept. 4 when Chief Growth and Experience Office Maurice Cooper left the company.
Wingstop’s sales have been strong of late, aided by a new campaign launched in February and the addition of delivery, handled by DoorDash, from an expanding number of locations. Wingstop also has more money to spend on ads. Franchisees began contributing 4 percent of sales to the brand’s national advertising fund at the beginning of 2019, up from 3 percent.
Now, it’s up to Clarke to keep the momentum going at the 25-year-old chicken wing chain. Clarke was a key player in the introduction of the tagline “Where Flavor Gets Its Wings,” which began appearing in ads from Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett Chicago in February. That theme is slated to keep running next year and the company plans to nationally advertise delivery in TV commercials in 2020.
“We look forward to continuing to build on our flavor story and equity,” says Clarke, who counts Lemon Pepper and Spicy Korean Q among her favorite Wingstop flavors.
Clarke has early ties to the quick-serve restaurant space. She began working at a Taco Bell restaurant in Arizona when she was 16. She later moved up the ranks within Yum Brands, with roles in operations at Taco Bell and marketing at Pizza Hut, and was then an account director supporting Yum Brands at Euro RSCG. Later, she spent a dozen years at Frito-Lay North America, most recently working in areas such as retail activations and partnerships such as the snack maker’s relationship with the NFL.
Clarke negotiated Wingstop’s first partnership with IMG, leading to a number of college football partnerships and its partnership with the Dallas Cowboys. Wingstop also has partnerships with the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
While new CMOs often review agency relationships, Clarke has already gone through that process at Wingstop and sounds pleased with the current roster, calling them "our team." In December, Wingstop hired Leo Burnett Chicago as its lead creative agency and Dallas-based 3Headed Monster as its creative shop for local campaigns and social media. Publicis' Starcom is Wingstop's media agency. And earlier this year, Wingstop began working with Publicis’ MSL on public relations. The Publicis shops handle their Wingstop business together as a Chicago-based team. Genesco is its sports marketing agency.
Wingstop is the 45th largest restaurant chain in the United States, according to annual rankings from Technomic. In the recent fiscal third quarter, Wingstop’s U.S. same-store sales rose 12.3 percent, up from a gain of 6.3 percent a year earlier.
When Wingstop announced those results on Oct. 30, Chairman and CEO Charlie Morrison said the national advertising campaign was resonating with diners. At that time, Wingstop raised its profit and sales forecasts for the fiscal year, calling for U.S. same-store sales to rise 10 percent to 11 percent, up from a prior forecast of high-single-digit growth.
Wingstop has about 1,340 restaurants, including 1,200 locations in the United States. Most of them are franchised. It has added hundreds of locations in recent years and is on track to add as many as 142 locations in 2019.