Nisha Qureshi

Taco Bell goes all guns blazing; to spend 18-20% of its revenue on advertising

The new campaign aims to establish Mexican food as a category and educates audiences about what the QSR has to offer.

Taco Bell, the Mexican-inspired Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) is one of the most recognised brands outside India. It launched in India in 2010, however, its presence as well as marketing has been relatively limited as compared to other QSR giants in the country.

A significant turning point for the brand came in 2019 when Burman Hospitality signed up as the brand’s master franchisee in India. Prior to this, Taco Bell was run by the brand’s parent company Yum brands in the country.

Taco Bell is now on a bullish expansion spree and has launched its first-ever big-scale campaign for the Indian market. The campaign aims to establish Mexican-inspired foods in the Indian QSR space that is dominated with pizza and burger brands.

Speaking to afaqs! in an exclusive chat, Kunal Malhotra, chief marketing officer, Burman Hospitality (Taco Bell India) states, “It's one of Taco Bell’s very first mass-scale campaigns in India. The genesis behind the campaign was that despite being the only Mexican-inspired QSR brand in the world, we had probably not done enough to build the Mexican cuisine in India."

"Prior to this, the entire communication was on digital whereas probably what was the need of the hour was to explain what a taco, a chalupa or a burrito is, just to build the Mexican cuisine in the country.”

The brand’s latest campaign, executed by Media.Monks and Creativeland Productions, does exactly that. It pushes audiences to try something new while also informing them what they can expect out of a taco or a burrito at Taco Bell India and highlights its value offerings.

As per Azazul Haque, CCO at Media. Monks India, it is an exciting challenge to introduce a unique offering to the Indian market. He states the QSR space in India is primarily ruled by two foods; burgers and pizzas.

“Even as a culture, we are drawn to foods that belong to this category like a vada pav or a bread pakoda that are between two breads for sandwiches. Our taste palettes are also very used to these foods. So when burger QSRs came to India, we were not alien to its concept and we have also adopted pizzas very well. However, when it comes to dishes like tacos, quesadillas or burritos, the Indian palette is not very used to these. The biggest challenge is to establish and to introduce a new taste to the audience. This was the genesis of the brief.”

Taco Bell's plans for India
Taco Bell's plans for India

Taco Bell’s new positioning

According to Malhotra, the brand now also aims to introduce itself into the consideration sets of consumers who dine in.

“We also wanted to establish Taco Bell into the consideration sets for consumers when they are dining out as a group. For example, when going out with family or an office party, we want people to try tacos instead of Pizzas.”

Malhotra explains that another important goal for the brand in India is to increase its walk-in sales and average transactions. He adds that it are doubling down on this by offering ‘value’ to the consumers.

“Our promise to the consumer is ‘more’. This is why the menu has been revamped to suit the taste buds as well as appeal to the wallets of the consumers. We have loaded our food with more fillings, more sauces, more flavours and even increased our portion size. This is because Indians like bold and big flavours. We are in a very unique position because we can offer so much variety to the consumers compared to the other QSRs out there who are fixated on single items like Pizzas and Burgers. We have got tacos, burritos, quesadillas, wraps, desserts, and beverages now,” he explains.

A few of its pocket offerings include a taco or a burrito meal starting at Rs 89 including a side beverage and a dessert. The beverages are also very economical, ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 150.

The brand has also introduced a number of India inspired dishes like Paneer Makhani and Butter Chicken Tacos. The idea is not to really go out and Indianise it but to offer people what they expect out of a QSR, which is bold flavours, tasty food and unique culinary experiences, says Malhotra.

Prior to this campaign, Indian cricketer Hardik Pandya was the face of Taco Bell in India however, Malhotra explained that the aim currently is to let their food be the celebrity.

Bullish expansion and media strategy

Despite its limited presence and marketing, India emerged as the second-largest market for the brand in 2022. Taco Bell had then announced that it is investing about 100 million dollars in India and an ambitious plans to expand from around 100 to 600 stores in India by the end of the decade.

Currently, Taco Bell operates approximately 130 stores across 30 cities in the country.

Malhotra states that the brand is very much on track with their plans. “600 stores by the end of the decade is what we are aiming for. In the next three to four years, we might be at 300 to 400 stores in India. The main objective now is to build brand buzz, category education, and buzz around Mexican cuisine.”

The brand is now quite bullish on its plans ahead and has increased its ad spends many folds. “We are extremely bullish with our plans on Taco Bell in terms of media. Usually, the category operates at, you know, about 5 to 6% of their revenue as ad spends. We are probably operating at close to 18-20% of our revenue on ad spends from this campaign onwards. On television, we are focusing on General entertainment and movie channels along with Tamil and Telugu regional channels.

“In many ways, it's our first ever sort of mainline, big-scale campaign. So, we're going all out to put it out there,” he states.

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