Yum! Brands CMO explains why Instagram inspired Taco Bell’s turnaround

In 2011, Yum! Brands were struggling to drive plummeting sales at Taco Bell.

“They had tried to boost sales by lowering the prices and stuff like that and it really wasn’t working,” Yum said! CMO brands Ken Muench.

Old Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed, then head of Taco Bell, brought in Collider Labs, a marketing strategy and consumer insights consultancy founded by Muench and acquired by Yum! Marques in 2015 – to figure out what was wrong and make a difference.

The problem: Taco Bell was “out of touch” and no longer “culturally relevant”.

“It was out of sync with the culture,” Muench said. “He was selling affordable filler food at a time when people were starting to feed on Instagram. With the arrival of Generation Y at the time and Instagram, food has become… an identity choice.

By processing this information, Creed re-energized the Taco Bell brand by launching the “Live Más” marketing campaign in 2012 as well as the introduction of the Doritos Locos Taco and Cantina Bell menu.

This turnaround led to the development of a strategy called RED – relevance, ease and distinctiveness – which examined not only the relevance of Taco Bell in the market, but also the ease with which the brand was accessible to consumers and how. from which it stood out from its competitors.

“We adjusted the brand, sales picked up, then we had to maintain sales,” Muench said. “We have had eight or nine years of consistent sales growth at Taco Bell. “

The strategy worked so well, Muench added, that Creed rolled it out globally and has since been used to pilot other Yums! Brand campaigns for KFC, Pizza Hut and Habit Burger Grill.

The initiative is now the subject of a new book written by Creed and Muench, “RED Marketing: The Three Ingredients of Leading Brands”, released this week.

AdExchanger spoke to Muench.

AdExchanger: How has the RED strategy evolved?

KEN MUENCH: RED was formed during Taco Bell’s turnaround between 2011 and 2015. After figuring out how to make the brand more relevant, ease and distinctiveness began to play a bigger role. In search of ease, for example, we’ve launched and refined a variety of apps and smoother consumer decision paths.

After that, it was all about refinement, testing on other brands and in other countries, until we had all the issues resolved.

Why is it important for marketers to do all three?

Relevance, ease, and distinctiveness are really the key elements of marketing.

We quickly realized that there are marketers who are really good at doing something culturally relevant, and others who are not. They are good for making a distinctive mark or maybe they are just good for the pricing structure.

Each marketer seems to have their own strong point and we realized that just wouldn’t work. You can’t have a marketer with a strong point and a weak point because he’s so competitive.

We needed every marketer to have all the strengths and that’s why we developed RED

We realized that everyone has to do all three – you need a holistic marketer, not a niche and narrow marketer, which is a major problem. That’s what we’ve trained the 2,000 marketers to do around the world and it’s the foundation of what we do.

Can you share some examples of how the RED strategy has worked?

KFC in South Africa is a powerful brand. But they were negative on sales for a while.

The brand was synonymous with friendliness and warmth and a period in South Africa after apartheid called the Rainbow Nation. People loved the brand during this time.

But then a new generation grew up and they were talking about individual success or coolness and me as a person, which is a lot different. And suddenly the brand is no longer so relevant. We fixed that and within a year sales picked up right away, and they’ve been in tears ever since. Basically, solving the problem in South Africa was about cultural relevance.

At the same time, we went to Pizza Hut in the UK and did the exact same study. And there was no problem of cultural relevance. The problem was that the mark was not distinctive.

In every window, marketers were doing a brand new ad that looked very different from the previous ad, and consumers couldn’t remember the brand – it wasn’t a priority.

They created a campaign called “Now That’s Delivering” with a character that was super cohesive and they stuck with it. Their sales have increased dramatically and have grown steadily since.

Three years later, they’re still on the same campaign because their problem was distinctive.

Is there a greater sense of urgency due to all the changes marketers have experienced over the past year due to COVID-19?

We were already very well positioned at the start of the pandemic because we were so heavy in driving around the world and we were already being driven smoothly. It was simply a matter of pivoting not only drive-thru, but also apps and digital delivery. All of these things, we have accelerated them globally.

There are two massive changes that have happened because of COVID.

There is a massive shift globally of people focusing on people, caring for people, and helping people. And the idea that businesses have a role to play in helping society. Because of RED, our antennas were in place and we detected this change, and we reacted around the world quite aggressively by relying on society to help society.

The other challenge is ease – the more complicated the situation, the more frightening the situation, people will gravitate towards the easier choice.

You have to make things easier than they’ve ever been in the history of fast food. How smooth is this app? How well did you get the right message to the right person? Anything you can do to make this process of what we call a consumer decision easier is going to pay off right now.

What are the biggest challenges marketers face today?

The biggest challenge facing marketers today is how to balance everything. Today marketers are focusing on overnight sales and e-commerce and spending all their money on it. They forgot to build their brand over time. At the end of the day, what builds a brand and sales is having a big, powerful brand that’s a priority.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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