Panera's Drayton Martin on Brand Building, Managing Change and Purpose Marketing

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Cover image for  article: Panera's Drayton Martin on Brand Building, Managing Change and Purpose Marketing

Drayton Martin (pictured above) is Vice President, Brand Building, for Panera Bread and is speaking at the upcoming ANA Brand Activation & Creativity Conference Oct 12-13. Her presentation is titled: "The Power of Focus: Choosing the Right 'Starter' For Panera Bread." John Paquin, the ANA's Senior Director, Brand & Media, recently caught up with her for a pre-conference conversation.

John Paquin: Panera Bread has a rich history of firsts, starting with having created the "fast casual" category. How has the category evolved since, particularly during COVID, and how has Panera Bread managed to stay out ahead of that change, or even perhaps drive it?

Drayton Martin: At Panera, we are fanatical about the guest experience. We ask ourselves; how can we make the experience a great one? And then -- how can we make great even better? Focusing on our guest pushes us to constantly look ahead, whether its in our brand work, our bakery-cafe design, contactless experiences, our digital offerings -- it all comes back to innovating for the guest experience. When it comes to elevating the guest experience, we believe in the familiar, made fantastic. So, taking what guests know, and generously adding something more to make it fantastic. For example -- every restaurant has an array of beverages. But Panera offers so much more -- exclusive access to unlimited beverages as part of our Unlimited Sip Club.

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Paquin: How do you think of the competitive landscape for Panera? Who do you see as your competition? How has that changed during COVID, and do you see those changes as transitory, or permanent?

Martin: Our guest defines the competition for us -- wherever they are when they aren't with us is our competition. For Panera, we try not to get distracted by what others are doing -- instead, by keeping a laser focus on what our guests want and need, we stay true to what we're here to do for them, and that's creating phenomenal experiences.

Paquin: What was the single biggest lesson learned from your Dunkin' experience that you carried with you to Panera Bread?

Martin: You must own who you are as a brand. In identifying what is most essential to the brand and focusing everything on that, you bring what is most powerful about the brand to life.

Paquin: You were a driver of enormous change at Dunkin'. Beyond the obvious, how are the two brands similar/different? How about the categories? What from your past were you able to apply, and what was your learning curve lie for the "fast casual" segment?

Martin: Both are storied brands with deep connections with their guests and their communities. Each inspire rituals and routines that become touchstones for guests. Where and when they compete are starkly different. Dunkin' is a beverage-forward brand focusing primarily on the breakfast daypart. Panera serves delicious food you feel great about eating across all meal occasions. So, the expansive dayparts and meal types are quite different because the routines and needs at each meal occasion are quite distinct. As far as learning curve, my primary obsession was immersing myself in Panera and the role it plays in culture.

Paquin: Panera Bread is a strong, well-established brand with a dedicated following and powerful equity. Yet you must certainly have come on board with a mandate for evolution, if not change. How did you decide what to keep, and what to leave behind?

Martin: We keep a laser focus in staying true to who we are. Panera is a brand with so many compelling commitments, so it was key to evaluate it all to identify which were the most valuable, true cornerstones to our brand. Our Consumer Insights practice is best-in-class, so there was robust research that guided our decisions.

Paquin: With Panera's strong equity built on so many industry "firsts", focus on health, sustainability, responsibility to society, would you call Panera Bread a "purpose" brand? How would you describe your Brand Purpose?

Martin: Panera is driven by our purpose, to create a healthier and happier world. Healthy because of our commitment to clean, quality ingredients, unlocking the potential of our associates, donating our unsold baked goods to help our neighbors in need and focusing on making a positive impact on the climate. Happier because of what our delicious, craveable meals help to facilitate among our guests - memories, experiences and fulfillment in the moment and long-term. Everything we do ties back to our purpose, and we were proud to be recognized this year on the Purpose Power Index as the only restaurant on its list of the 2022 top purpose-driven brands.

Paquin: And finally, we have to ask: are you losing "bread"?

Martin: Definitely not! Bread is our last name. We are doubling down on bread. Our heritage as a bakery inspires so much of our craft. Our bread bowl will always be full!

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