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CMO One-to-One: Taco Bell’s Secret Sauce Might Just Be Mobile Marketing



Chris Brandt
CMO
Taco Bell

Chris Brandt, CMO at Taco Bell, is calling the quick-service restaurant’s (QSR’s) new breakfast items “innovation with a twist on the familiar.” That’s his plan in marketing too, by using Instagram and soon rolling out a mobile ordering app.

eMarketer: Taco Bell recently launched its breakfast items. Was that something consumers were asking for?

Chris Brandt: Taco Bell has a youthful essence, and we’re trying to reach our millennial target. We want to make sure we’re relevant to them. We call our new breakfast items “innovation with a twist on the familiar.” When we looked at the breakfast landscape, we saw a lot of similarities, a sea of sameness. It was boring. Breakfast is one of the only dayparts that’s really growing, certainly in the QSR industry.

We didn’t just do waffles, we did a waffle taco. We didn’t just do cinnamon rolls, we did Cinnabon Delights where the icing is on the inside. We put our special twist on it. These are all classic breakfast tastes, things we know millennials and Americans in general just love to have for breakfast. They love sausage, bacon, eggs and hash browns. The Crunchwrap is the only breakfast sandwich out there that has hash browns inside.

“We’re the only QSR that’s advertising on Instagram right now, and we really took an Instagram-worthy approach.”

eMarketer: Which channels is Taco Bell using to promote the new breakfast items?

Brandt: A variety of mobile, online, TV and social. We’re the only QSR that’s advertising on Instagram right now, and we really took an Instagram-worthy approach. We worked directly with one of the co-founders of Instagram to make sure that our stuff blends in and feels like an inherent part of the Instagram experience, as opposed to just being a pure marketing piece.

This is the biggest launch in Taco Bell history, and we are pulling every lever at our disposal. We’re going to approach it from a product innovation standpoint. Taco Bell will be in places that we haven’t been before in terms of drive time, radio and morning shows. Those weren’t relevant time periods before because we weren’t open. Now we’re open.

eMarketer: Mobile has played an integral role at Taco Bell for years. How will you continue to use the medium?

Brandt: We will be coming out with a mobile ordering app later this year. Consumers will be able to place their order via their mobile phone and then pick it up at Taco Bell.

We’re also going to have a loyalty component within the app, which will reward consumers. We know that mobile is becoming the first screen that people use, and we want to be relevant wherever our consumers are.

eMarketer: Are you currently piloting the mobile ordering app?

Brandt: We’re in a beta test right now, and we’ll be expanding that test in the coming months.

eMarketer: Have you found that there is a strong demand for mobile ordering?

Brandt: Yes. Mobile is the screen that consumers check the most. We showed the app to a few of our insiders, and they are happy with it.

“We want to be a lifestyle brand, and so we have to fit where people are, not where we want to go.”

eMarketer: Technology is constantly changing. How are you adapting to it?

Brandt: It’s important to make sure that you have a similar and relevant message across individual platforms. You have to be aware of all the changes that are happening, as well as where consumers are migrating their usage to, and make sure you’re there. We want to be a lifestyle brand, and so we have to fit where people are, not where we want to go.

eMarketer: What technologies are you looking at to help drive consumer engagement?

Brandt: Our biggest initiative is mobile because we know people are using mobile more than ever. It’s a bigger part of their life, but as other technologies evolve, we’ll look at that as well.

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