Panda Express, the quick-service restaurant chain, is tapping into the power of its origins story as a means of engaging and educating consumers, while simultaneously building its brand.

The company dates back to 1973, and is now led by co-CEOs: Andrew Cherng, who was born in the Jiangsu province of China, and Peggy Cherng, Andrew’s wife, who was born in Burma, then raised in Hong Kong, before moving to America.

“Many of us, I think, understand this idea of being spread across two different cultures or multiple cultures,” Andrea Cherng, CMO of Panda Express – and Andrew and Peggy’s daughter – said at Advertising Week New York 2019. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Panda Express boosts cultural understanding (and sales) with Lunar New Year campaign.)

From a starting point of a single outlet in Pasadena, California, Panda Express now runs more than 2,000 restaurants in countries from Canada and Mexico to Japan and Saudi Arabia.

And in the US, its home market, the brand is combining a passion for its origins with a desire to reach hungry diners in compelling ways.

“What we at Panda Express aspire to do is bring the richness of our Chinese origins, the richness of the flavors of Chinese food and traditions, to a wider audience,” Cherng asserted.

One case in point was a campaign earlier this year that aimed to connect with, and educate, consumers around Lunar New Year – and that was primarily targeted at people who were not “fluent” with this annual occasion.

Its efforts ranged from outreach to schools for educational purposes through to giving out red envelopes – reflecting a Lunar New Year tradition – to customers, each containing an offer for free food and a drink next time they visited its restaurants.

And this initiative points towards a marketing sweet spot that Panda Express identified that will help it champion its core values while boosting important brand indicators.

“This campaign very much is symbolic of who we are as a company and how we want to grow,” Cherng told the Advertising Week confab.

“Our goal now is to put forward, and continue to move forward with, a stewardship of our origins, of the traditions, and values, and flavors – and ensure that those that are fluent and those that are non-fluent get exposure and appreciation.”

Sourced from WARC