How A Step Back Can Catapult Your Career.

Pop culture plays a significant role in how language evolves, turning slang words and phrases into everyday sayings recognized by dictionary.com. As a result, slang terminology has the power to define a generation and even spark creative marketing campaigns. For example, although the term struggle bus was first recorded in the early 2000s, it’s become widely popular over the past decade, especially among Millennials and Gen Z. It describes the journey of a struggle a person is experiencing; a bus goes through multiple stops on its way, each stop representing a new challenge a person has to face and overcome. Its popularity inspired one of Pizza Hut’s latest campaigns.

Lindsay Morgan, CMO at Pizza Hut (owned by Yum! Brands), leads a creative team tasked with innovating new ways to connect with and attract new customers. Last year she won AdAge’s 40 under 40 accolade and landed on Brand Innovators Top 100 Women list. At the beginning of this month, Morgan and her team launched the company’s new marketing activation, the Struggle Bus. During final exam week, the experience is a safe haven for college students that provides loungers, pizza, beds for power naps, and adoption-ready puppies to play with and cuddle. The campaign stops include Final Four and Southeastern Conference colleges. The company estimates at least 5,000 slices will be served between the NCAA Final Four and the upcoming exam stop in Athens at the end of this month.

“We had talked about how pizza is a cure for a lot of things, whether you’re busy, and you want a whole meal solution for your family and it’s convenient, or if it’s just like you’re looking to veg out and you’re a student and you’re having a stressful time,” Morgan explains. “And so really saying this is a customer truth, or people are using this in the regular vernacular of being on the struggle bus. … Our big focus is looking towards aging down our brand. We’re focused on bringing in the next generation of pizza lovers and meeting them where they are, whether that’s a college student or the next generation of young families or anything in between.”

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Morgan’s career in marketing began while interning for a small agency during college. She learned how the power of storytelling could make or break a brand. After graduation, she worked for a wine distributor. Quickly realizing it wasn’t a good fit, she moved back in with her parents while figuring out her next move. She finally landed a position within an events firm before transitioning back into an advertising role working on the AT&T account.

After almost two years, Morgan searched for her next challenge. Securing a role at Samsung as senior marketing manager, she worked on everything from television to performance marketing to social media. She tried new ideas and concepts and valued the lessons learned in this role. Eventually, the company relocated its headquarters from Texas to New York City, and Morgan decided to stay and work at a tech company.

One of her former colleagues moved over to Pizza Hut, expressing to Morgan that the company was hiring for a television production role. She was working as a director of brand marketing for the tech company, so it would be a step-down.

“I was like, ‘Ok, why not?’” she laughs. “I always make the joke that as a marketer, it’s a lot like acting where if you do the same gig, you’re cast into that role; pretty soon you’re the quirky friend next door or pretty soon you’re just a tech marketer, and it’s difficult to do something else. So I wanted to try my hand at a different industry. … While I was interviewing, I just really loved the culture. And I loved the people there. They ended up saying that they would make it a senior manager role, which was still a step back and was also a smaller role, smaller pay, everything was smaller, but I just thought it was a really good time to take a step back and try my hand at something a little different.”

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Almost four years into her tenure, her boss left, which opened up the opportunity for Morgan to step in as CMO. One of the biggest challenges she faced was transitioning from doing the work to planning, strategizing and working with the stakeholders. She’s currently working on other pop culture campaigns and other customer-led initiatives from products that customers have expressed on social media that they would like to see revisited.

As Morgan pivoted in her career, she focused on the following essential steps:

  • Develop a growth mindset. The ride is very fluid and sometimes doesn’t work out how you thought it would, making you redefine your definition of success.
  • Figure out if you’re running away from something or running towards something. That will help you understand what you want to do and the culture you want to work in.
  • Establish long-term relationships—that means taking the time to get to know someone and how you can help and add value to them.

“Advocate and root for yourself like you would root for your best friend,” Morgan concludes. “I hear people all the time say, ‘Oh, I really fumbled.’ And you can be really hard on yourself. But most of the time, the rest of the group isn’t really thinking about what you said later on. It’s you who’s scrutinizing those comments or holding those words in high regard. So have some grace for yourself.”

Source: Cheryl Robinson

Photo Source: COURTESY OF PIZZA HUT

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