Q&A with Maria Hokanson: Maintaining A Brand Legacy While Focusing on Innovation
Q&A with Maria Hokanson: Maintaining A Brand Legacy While Focusing on Innovation

New marketing executive discusses how the DQ® brand continues to be known as an iconic leader in franchising while setting new trends in the QSR industry.

What is your background with the Dairy Queen® brand?

I am coming up on my 13th anniversary with the DQ brand and have been around the block in the marketing department. I started as a mall marketing manager and have really worked through every nook and cranny of the business. I grew up loving the DQ brand and have memories of going with my grandpa. I even named my dog Buster after the Buster® Bar.

My most recent role before being promoted to EVP of Marketing was VP of Product and Brand. One of the key responsibilities in that role was to lead the team that drives product innovation, determines the marketing calendar and uses consumer insight to guide future product decisions. I was part of the team that brought to life $5 Buck Lunch, which was a wonderful product launch to be a part of because it was so evolutionary to building our food business.

What is next for you in your new role as EVP of Marketing and what can fans expect from the brand in the upcoming year?

My team’s focus will be to continue updating and differentiating the brand in coming years. There is huge opportunity for us to build conversations with our fans through our growing presence in the digital space. From a growth and brand trajectory standpoint, we need to keep the balance of maintaining our treat leadership while growing our food and snack business. We want to continue to grow and evolve products like the Blizzard® Treat and continue to make it as relevant as possible, while building upon new food items that are offered through our DQ Grill & Chill® concept.

How does the DQ® brand maintain its longstanding legacy while continuing to innovate as a top player in the QSR industry?

We are continuing to push the boundaries on treat differentiation and take advantage of the opportunity we have with food. The success of the $5 Buck Lunch showed that were able to attract loyal fans to try our food offerings by combining food and treats at a value cost. We are also working to understand the millennial voice. As we evolve as a brand, our innovation process is called “fannovation,” to continue to bring our loyal fans along with us as we make our food and treat offerings bigger and better. Our brand was built on baby boomers, and now the Gen X and millennial mindset is more than just an age group, so they change the discourse and opinions of other generations.