Robert Kapfhammer of Ad Cucìna: “You can’t succeed in digital marketing by yourself”

You can’t succeed in digital marketing by yourself. Ignite your team, work for each other, push the envelope, and move at the speed of questions. When one is answered, ask another. Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market […]

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You can’t succeed in digital marketing by yourself. Ignite your team, work for each other, push the envelope, and move at the speed of questions. When one is answered, ask another.


Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Kapfhammer.

Robert Kapfhammer, President of Ad Cucina, has over 10 years of experience fueling success for all types of restaurant franchises and corporate brands. Prior to leading Ad Cucina, Kapfhammer managed a group of 18 restaurant experts at Scoppechio on accounts such as LongHorn Steakhouse, KFC, Fazoli’s and A&W Restaurants.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thanks for having me! I come from a line of restaurant operators and entrepreneurs. I grew up helping my family in the restaurant business, where we operated 15 Rally’s and 10 Long John Silver’s franchisees until 2009. From there, I leapt into advertising and joined the team at Scoppechio. I was leading the restaurant division when it was spun off by our parent company as Ad Cucina, a specialized restaurant and foodservice marketing firm, where I was named president in 2020.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Well, it wasn’t really a mistake, but it had an important lesson nonetheless. In my junior years at the agency we would submit change orders, a document detailing changes for creative pieces of artwork to members of the creative team. From time to time there were concerns that the creative team was not “reading” the change orders. So one day, in the middle of a rather lengthy change order, I added a line that read: “Please come see me and I will give you 50 dollars cash.” Oddly enough, I never had anyone come see me about that change order 😊. Of course, I mentioned it a few days later to the team and, although some of them had a few choice words, their reactions still prove the lesson! Funny or not, the lesson is that even the small details matter. Take the time to double-check.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Luck, guidance and mentorship are keys to success in this space and I am eternally grateful to a handful of people. I have so many stories, most of which should be told over a well-made rye old-fashioned. However, I will tell you my best story which is not one of specificity, but rather one of acknowledgement. I’ve never planned for a person to come along to change my life. But, I have been fortunate enough to be able to realize when it’s happening and to slow down to absorb the information that’s being given. It is truly career changing. From best friends who push you, and founders that pave roads, to bosses and leaders that provide new insights and perspectives, and clients that make you smarter, it took many people to help build a solid foundation for the career in this business that I’ve enjoyed. Those people, they know who they are, have helped me and our agency achieve success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our commitment to and passion for the restaurant space is what makes Ad Cucina stand out. Food has a transcendent ability to bring people together. Every day we’re inspired by the people, food and experiences provided by our clients. Our “never say no” mentality helps bring game-changing results to companies such as LongHorn Steakhouse and others. We like to throw out traditional processes and approaches to make way for new and transformative thinking. Some innovative changes with this mindset have resulted in 25–35% UCTOR (Unique Click to Open Rate) and hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue driven by email alone.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As a successful leader, the three traits that I choose to focus on most are: Empathy, Listening and Commitment.

  • Empathy can help bring people together. People are at the center of everything we do, because they power everything. They have concerns, and varying moods and emotions, and taking the time to hear them, interpret them and understand how to best interact with them on an individual level is a key skill. One evening after asking a team member a few extra questions, we were able to reconfigure our entire workflow because their responses were transparent and far from the normal “conversation” that we cut through the b.s. and came to better understand how to work together.
  • Listening, also closely tied to the previous story, is almost like a superpower. I love to talk, just as much as the next person, but, man, listening is powerful. And really listening is difficult, but it is so rewarding. On several occasions, a client has pointed out to me that our agency is the only team to notice certain information and irregularities. It is this layer of detail and attention that guides both client and agency development, employee growth and overall professional development.
  • Commitment is more simple than the other two attributes, but often the most tested. Commitment is hard. It is tested every day, regardless of weather, attitude or outlook. Commitment to our clients, commitment to our team and to our mission test me every day. The prize at the end of the tunnel, a smile or sense of approval from a client, a “Good job!” from your boss, or simply a day without turmoil, takes a massive amount of commitment. But at the end of the day, those that are committed, when others relent, make way for game-changing dynamics. One specific client, after hours in a hot turnaround scenario, acknowledged graciously that we were there to help them in a tight spot. Commitment is a trait that our founder, Debbie Scoppechio, instilled in all of us . Debbie is the perfect example of commitment, regardless of circumstance.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has allowed us the time to re-examine our approach to many things. We’ve been forced to challenge the status quo and to better use technology to help our clients. Even simple ways, such as our Test Kitchen which has allowed information to flow faster, have helped us become smarter. We’ve also been exploring micro-expression and eye-tracking technology to capture consumer behaviors to better inform our creative approach. The change in individual behavior has also allowed us to examine entire menu systems and consumer experiences at a whole new level. The ability to do these things will only allow the guest experiences to continually improve at rates higher than previously possible.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

You can’t swallow the ocean. Often those starting in digital marketing are ripe with enthusiasm and energy and the world is their oyster. However, after a short time, the availability of data, mediums and just general options can become suffocating. Start small, see results, make changes, but do so incrementally. As your understanding increases, so does your ability to learn. Start small and inch your way into the big show. In email specifically, there is SO much data that it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re trying to do. Segmentation, mapping, appending, spending, etc. All the data in the world can make you smart, but if the creative and execution is average, then you might not get much out of the effort. The campaign idea can be simple or complex, regardless of the data enrichment, but you MUST have great creative.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

It all starts with a business objective: What are you trying to achieve in order to grow your business? Increasing volume and growing the check average are two very different objectives and require different creative and media approaches. Once you have nailed down a measurable and meaningful objective, then you need to explore what’s stopping you from achieving that objective today. Then, once that problem has been thoroughly plumbed and questioned, you can shift to advertising. Great advertising comes from translating the business problem into a consumer problem. And now that you have a consumer problem, you can inspire your creative and media teams to build the best possible message and deliver it in the best possible way to your target audience.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

When we think about any advertising, we start with the customer journey and what are they doing and feeling when our message reaches them. In terms of PPC, the customer is actively searching for something specific, so we lean heavily on Search platforms, specifically Google, as the very act of searching refines the details of the consumer behavior. Google serves its users by providing more specific and richer information in less time to improve its consumer experience and we believe it is best practice to follow suit. It is this exact moment, when a consumer is actively looking for information to make a decision, that we’ve found the most success in directly impacting sales.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

1) Know what keywords to buy and what NOT to buy — a pound of keyword research is worth a ton of ROI. Additionally, using negative keywords to streamline how you show up on a SERP is critical to maximizing every dollar of the campaign.

2) Understand where you are sending customers — the experience on the page and any contextual link you can build within the ad itself will increase conversion as customers get to your landing page and instantly realize they are in the right spot. Evaluate that landing page with a critical eye to make sure that your customers are taking the action you want them to take. And if they’re not, look at their journey and remove the barriers that are stopping them.

3) Test, test, and test — you won’t have all the answers on the launch day of a campaign. You need to allow room to iterate. There are many variables in the equation (e.g., landing page, targeting, keywords, bids, etc.) and you need the flexibility to adjust those variables as the campaign runs.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

Email is an indispensable tool for restaurant marketing, often driving the highest ROI of any marketing tool. Restaurant email marketing is Ad Cucina’s superpower, and we’ve been able to consistently generate click-to-open rates of 20% or better. Some of the keys to a successful email campaign include:

  • Clean lists. Good emails are based on good data. Email lists need to be accurate and segmented based on the data that has been collected. Sending a burger off to a known vegetarian will likely result in an unsubscribe.
  • Compelling, accurate and short subject lines. Give customers a reason to open the email without being misleading or giving too much away.
  • Intriguing creative concepts. Email lives at the intersection of art and science. If the art doesn’t back up all of the science and data, then you’re not doing it right. Email is different than direct mail and requires different graphics and callouts. Animation can be very effective. We strive to enhance crave and drive intrigue by using eye-catching techniques.
  • Strong call to action. The purpose of most restaurant email campaigns is to get customers to either order immediately, make a reservation, or visit the website to find the closest location.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

All of digital marketing can be summarized in one question: Did it work? Reporting on performance has been a huge lift for marketers and we’ve said “enough is enough” and built our own tool called, Ovation. Ovation is a scalable reporting and data storytelling platform that we built specifically for our agency. It enables us to connect all our marketing data sources into a single place and build stunning push reports that can be duplicated and customized with ease, all while eliminating the manual data wrangling and management, which helps us to accelerate our time to insights.

Data is also critical at every stage of the marketing journey, but one area where data is typically lacking is upfront in creative concept-ing. It is tough to get a read on what will resonate with consumers as we build our ads, so we developed Test Kitchen to collect data specifically for the creative instances that we build for our clients, in real-time. We take two pieces of creative to our consumer thunderdome and from there determine which creative is best. At its base, we run a test for preference. We ratchet that up by incorporating eye-tracking software. And the full expression of the tool features qualitative questions that lead us to insights faster. The cool thing is that this works with any type of creative, from menu design to digital campaigns.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Limitless Curiosity

Today’s decision is tomorrow’s history. The desire to be on the cutting edge has to be an endless loop: New Process, New Channels, New Approach. It happens every. single. day.

2. A team that moves at the speed of questions

You can’t succeed in digital marketing by yourself. Ignite your team, work for each other, push the envelope, and move at the speed of questions. When one is answered, ask another.

3. A passion for transparency and accountability

There is no hiding from data. Data drives transparency and accountability. Embrace it or you will be left behind

4. A backpack full of Brownie Points

An understanding family because digital means speed and speed doesn’t know nine to five. Build up those brownie points, you’re going to need them.

5. Storytelling DNA

The digital world can literally be hard to see, as it isn’t a tangible item. Understanding storytelling and having the ability to make complex ideas simple is a superpower.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

A Deeper Dive

Restaurant Business Online

Current Restaurant Operators

Front Line Employees

Taking People with You

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Food brings people together in more ways than I can possibly describe in the short nature of an interview. Food drives passion, innovation, community, creativity and crave across all groups. But unfortunately, all those groups do not have the same access to resources and capabilities. If I could start a movement, it would certainly spring from my restaurant background. I would like to inspire a cultural shift in advertising to support innovative kitchens and restaurant startups in all 50 states, with a focus on underfunded and underdeveloped neighborhoods. Food has the unique ability to galvanize in almost any setting: A great meal, a wonderful server, a unique atmosphere, an inspirational chef! All these things create joy, community and crave. The world is better with a bigger table where memories, experiences, and laughter are all shared. With food as our medium, we can create a big idea to drive positive change in our communities.

How can our readers further follow your work?

www.adcucina.com

[email protected]

Phone# 502–468–0628

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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