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Grant Macpherson

Grant Macpherson: A Flavorful Journey to Marketing Excellence

From Africa to Global Heights: The Odyssey of KFC Africa’s Chief Marketing Officer!

Let’s be honest: when hunger strikes, fast food is the hero. It’s the spot where people truly savor their bites. Quick, tasty, and ready to roll, these places have a special spot in our hearts (and stomachs).

Now, picture this: lots of fast-food spots, all trying to win your taste buds over. How do they do it? It’s all about the marketing game. Smart marketers, with sharp skills and clever plans, find a way to be the star of the fast-food show. Grant Macpherson has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. As the Chief Marketing Officer of KFC Africa, his career trajectory is an example of the power of diverse experiences and an unrelenting commitment to excellence.

Grant’s professional odyssey commenced in the vibrant landscape of Africa, where he cut his teeth in the FMCG sector. This early exposure laid the groundwork for a robust understanding of commercial brand growth—a skill set that would become instrumental in shaping his future endeavors. Eager to broaden his horizons, he seized opportunities abroad, spending seven transformative years in the United Kingdom and later in the Netherlands.

Currently, at the helm of KFC Africa, Grant’s association with the iconic brand spans over a decade. Every position he has held at KFC has served as a stepping stone and added to his impressive career arc. Grant highlights the significant influence of assembling a diverse workforce with a never-ending thirst for knowledge and development, crediting this successful formula for its ongoing success in Africa.

Beyond the boardroom, he finds inspiration in his young family, grounding him amidst the demands of a dynamic career. His commitment to work-life balance is reflected in his pursuits outside the office—whether catching up with friends, reveling in the outdoors, or currently training for a multi day cycling event.

Join us as we unravel the narrative of Grant Macpherson—a marketing maestro steering the course for KFC Africa. From his humble beginnings in Africa to the global stage, his journey exemplifies the fusion of passion, resilience, and a commitment to excellence that defines his leadership at the heart of one of Africa’s favorite QSR brands.

Below are the interview highlights:

Could you please brief us about KFC Africa and its inception story?

The story is an inspired one—a tale of ambition, dedication, and perseverance, combined with a work ethic that resulted in unimaginable success. Our founder, Colonel Sanders, was a serial entrepreneur but struck “fried gold” at the youthful age of 62 when he opened the first KFC. Our famous secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices has since taken the world by storm, coming to Africa over 50 years ago.

Since 1971, we have served millions of meals around the country and have cemented ourselves as one of Africa’s most loved brands. We have also forged a formidable legacy and proudly stand as the country’s leading quick-service restaurant brand, entrenched in the communities we serve.

I am super proud to be working on a brand that can impact people’s lives on a daily basis. Among our several CSI initiatives, Add Hope and KFC Mini Cricket are our flagships. KFC Add Hope is the second-biggest feeding scheme in the country, second only to the government. We work with hundreds of beneficiaries across the country to ensure children in the most difficult circumstances receive nutritious meals, enabling them to play, learn, and grow. This initiative has been running for 14 years and has served over 283 million meals since 2009. On top of that, KFC Mini Cricket is the biggest grassroots sports initiative in the country, bringing kids from all walks of life together in the spirit of play. Initiatives such as these continue to make KFC Africa’s favorite QSR brand.

Can you tell us about your experience as a marketing executive in different countries and categories?

Moving abroad was an amazing experience, both professionally and personally. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to move to a new market relatively early in my career. When moving to a new country, the first thing to understand is the different cultures, routines, and rhythms people live by. Once you have a good understanding of that, you can begin to forge relationships based on trust and mutual appreciation. The second thing to focus on is how to engage your consumers. For example, the retail industry varies significantly around the world; in some places, it’s a little more formal, and in others, perhaps a little less. Having worked in the food industry for the past 10 years, I have also learned that people’s tastes vary significantly across the world, so we need to be able to adapt to those preferences. Ultimately, as marketing executives, we need to navigate these complexities so that we can engage our consumers and drive brand equity and growth.

In my current role, we look after the brand in 23 markets, which are often complex and nuanced. Fortunately, I can lean into these learnings and engage with many of my peers abroad. KFC has an incredibly strong global network that we can consistently leverage whenever we face a new opportunity or challenge. In Africa, KFC is the largest QSR and one of the most loved brands. We also have a very strong track record of delivering solid growth and building brand equity. This means that we too can share our learnings globally to take our best practices into other KFC markets.

How have you achieved consistent top-percentile performance ratings in your career?

Collaboration and collaborative thinking triumph over individual intelligence every day. Some of my most successful endeavors stem from nurturing strong relationships and bringing out the best in people. I am also a staunch advocate for straightforward and clear strategies. To keep our strategies simple, I consistently urge my team to grasp the data before them, pick a lane, and commit to it.

What are some of the brands you have worked with, and what was your role in driving their success?

Before joining KFC, I worked at Reckitt Benckiser, overseeing brands such as Dettol, Finish, Clearasil, and Jik. As a brand manager, I was responsible for enhancing the commercial and brand health of our respective portfolios. Throughout my career, I have achieved this by focusing on increasing consumer awareness and relevance. This was accomplished by understanding the market’s needs, delivering products that addressed those needs, and creating distinctive and compelling advertising that drove awareness and engagement.

Could you provide examples of integrated communication campaigns that you have developed, including TV copy, BTL, and digital activation?

At KFC, we consistently develop a wealth of campaigns each year; however, there are too many to mention, so I will focus on the most recent ones that I am truly proud of. A particular standout is the “Anything for the Taste” campaign, which not only captured the imaginations of Africans but also garnered global and local recognition. Working with our wonderful partners at Ogilvy, we took an urban legend that had trended multiple times on social media and created a massive 360-degree campaign that drove tremendous awareness and engagement. The campaign secured several prestigious awards and accolades at this year’s Effies and Loeries, including the Grand Effie and a Grand Prix Loerie. The campaign has also achieved global acclaim at the One Show, D&AD, Clios, and a Bronze Cannes Lion, among others.

Another recent creative highlight was the relaunch of our breakfast lineup, featuring one of Africa’s favorite sons, Trevor Noah. Trevor’s ability to connect with people from all walks of life made him an excellent fit for our brand, resulting in a significant increase in awareness levels and sales across our breakfast offerings.

Finally, when it comes to “non-traditional” campaigns, I am also very proud of the work the KFC team did with our KFC x Uncle Waffles collaboration. The campaign focused on digital and social activation and was so impactful that the product sold out in a matter of weeks.

How have you brought innovative new products and services to the market in your previous roles?

I would say it’s more about the learning and inspiration I have brought to the market based on my previous experience. Africa boasts a wealth of talent and innovative thinkers. When we do use global ideas, we like to adapt global best practices and then add our own unique African twist when appropriate, thus ensuring the product is relevant to Africa.

What qualities do you believe are important for an entrepreneur in the marketing industry?

The ability to balance risk with pragmatism It’s great to have data to back up decision-making, but sometimes you just have to be brave and trust your gut.

Can you share some of the outstanding results you have achieved in your career?

What I take immense pride in is the chance to foster the professional development of individuals. There’s truly nothing quite like presenting someone with a promotion letter or informing them that they’ve secured their dream role. In addition to these rewarding moments, I’ve consistently achieved significant growth in market share for all the brands I’ve been involved with, achieving this through a strategic blend of driving sales and enhancing brand love.

What challenges did you face while driving branded retail for the KFC brand in Africa?

Our consumers have more choices than ever, but the reality is that we are also facing several economic challenges both locally and globally. On top of that, the significant shift to all things digital is giving consumers more opportunities to interact with and shop for brands. Our goal is to remain the number one brand when it comes to both top-of-mind awareness and consumer value. To achieve this, we need to give consumers access to our Finger Lickin’ Good taste at affordable prices that they can enjoy, regardless of the occasion or their channel preference (digital and/or traditional). Once we accomplish this, we can drive brand engagement and love through compelling advertising and other exciting marketing initiatives.

How did you navigate the brand through the pandemic crisis, and what strategies did you use to drive sales momentum and grow market share?

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown certainly had a significant impact on the local restaurant sector. However, I truly believe that our brand strength and our consumers’ love for our Finger-Lickin’ Good food meant that we were able to pivot and

meet our consumers where they were. Although we had a solid base in terms of our digital sales, the pandemic expedited our need to focus on channels such as click and collect as well as delivery. This meant we were able to fast-track our journey to enable the seamless convenience of e-commerce. Overall, I would say that we fared well despite the circumstances and the impact of rules that restricted dining out. The pandemic has also reminded us that to thrive and succeed, innovation must be at the heart of our business strategy.

What steps did you take to elevate KFC’s leadership position in the market?

Our success thrives on a commitment to drive both immediate sales and long-term brand growth, anchored by four key pillars: fostering people and community growth, creative excellence, innovative products and digital solutions, and building trusted partnerships.

  • People and community growth matter deeply to us. We invest in the development of our team and contribute meaningfully to the communities we serve, understanding that success extends beyond numbers to collective growth.
  • Creative excellence is at our core, where we blend product news with compelling stories to craft compelling brand experiences that leave a lasting impact. Our focus on product and digital innovation ensures our brand remains not only relevant but resonant in the ever-evolving consumer landscape.
  • Finally, at the heart of this success is strong partnerships built on trust. We believe in collaboration as the foundation of progress, driving not only our growth but also that of our partners. We have wonderful relationships with our cross-functional partners, franchisees, and agencies, all of whom make up the KFC family.

Please give us a few testimonials from your clients and awards or recognition that accurately highlight your achievements in the corporate niche.

Over the past few years, our journey has been marked by remarkable brand growth backed by double-digit sales growth. In the African market, we proudly stand as the dominant industry leader while continuing to grow market share. In fact, we are the biggest and fastest-growing QSR in Africa. Adding to our achievements, the KFC Africa Marketing team has garnered global recognition, securing the esteemed title of Global Marketing Team of the Year and numerous other accolades during our annual KFC global marketing conference.

In terms of industry awards, the 2022–2023 period has been one of our best years ever. Our international acclaim includes a prestigious Bronze Cannes Lion, three Ciclope Awards, two Clios, as well as awards at D&AD and The One Show. On a local front, we have clinched several gold lorries and the coveted Grand Prix lore. At the Effies, we proudly took home two silvers, two golds, and the illustrious Grand Effie. Our trophy shelf also boasts recent additions, including multiple Bookmarkers and Assegai awards.