"Tanmay Bhat was our first choice": Emili Matsumura, director marketing, Taco Bell APAC

By Deepashree Banerjee , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital
Published : July 10, 2018 05:08 AM
The fast-food chain ditches 'mainstream' celebs for a comedian and social influencer. A look at the strategy and new campaign.

Aloo Jeera, Aloo Gobhi, Aloo Matar, Aloo Palak, Aloo Methi; these are just some of the more typical items you'll find on most Indian menus. Boiled, mashed, baked, blanched, fried et al, the humble potato, a staple for many, can be served up in so many (many) forms and thus, caters to a wide variety of taste buds. But what does it have to do with Taco Bell? Well, the American fast-food brand has decided to decode Indians' insatiable love affair with the mighty potato with the introduction of an all-new 'Crispy Potaco' to their menu and the aim to #MakePotatoGreat.

Through this digital-only campaign, conceptualised by Ogilvy and seemingly aimed at millennials, Tanmay Bhat, comedian and social influencer, is seen in the video pitching the product or rather, the potato, to investors.

India as a region continues to be a key growth focus for Taco Bell globally and the brand believes it can be one of their biggest markets outside of the US, in the near future. Their latest campaign seems to aim at pushing the graph to higher points by focusing on a key demographic and a food-favourite of the TG.

Current challenges in brand visibility

Emili Matsumura Emili Matsumura

"Our store footprint is currently 17 in the cities of Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore and we have recently opened in Chandigarh and Hyderabad," states Emili Matsumura, director marketing, Taco Bell APAC.

"Given the current footprint, the brand still sees opportunities for consumers to learn about our brand and our food. However, with our store expansion plans, breakthrough food innovations like the Naked Chicken Taco and Crispy Potaco, and relevant marketing campaigns with key influencers such as Karan Tacker and Tanmay Bhat, we believe it won't be long before all consumers know about Taco Bell," Matsumura adds.

"Tanmay Bhat was our clear first choice," is her response on being asked whether roping in Tanmay, an A-list influencer, was evident as a bid to resonate the brand's vision, which is to be an ally to the millennials.

"Our brand, around the world, is associated with what's trending in youth and culture, but in a tonality that is uniquely ours. When we decided to go the route to 'Make Potato Great', we knew we had to find a cultural icon who could organically collaborate with us and authentically speak to our fans. It's been a fantastic collaboration from content to delivery to co-promotion," she recalls.

The brief and Zeroing in on the face for the campaign:

Sidharth Shukla Sidharth Shukla

We got in touch with Sidharth Shukla, vice president and head of digital, Ogilvy Delhi, to find out about the brand's brief to the agency which, he informs was simply - Launching the new potato taco product through digital touchpoints keeping the product insight - Reinvention in the new innovation - intact, as well as projecting the product as the 'New Avatar of Potato'.

Shukla echoes Matsumura's sentiment that Tanmay was the obvious choice. "The strategic route and creative idea was a bold and audacious attempt to save the potato from years of being side-lined and really campaign to give it its due glory! So who else, other than a self-proclaimed potatoholic like Tanmay Bhat, who could really collaborate with us on the campaign to #MakePotatoGreat," he clarifies.

Shukla further shares, "We had backups, but we only wanted to work with Tanmay. He contributed his own content to the script and he's been critical in helping this campaign really be discoverable. The impact and word-of-mouth have been so huge that we have seen Taco Bell fans in the US asking for this product to be launched there!"


We turned to the experts for their take on the new Taco Bell digital campaign and video -

Shekhar Mhaskar Shekhar Mhaskar

Sabiha Khan Sabiha Khan

Axon Alex Axon Alex

Shekhar Mhaskar, EVP, Isobar, is thoroughly impressed with the brand's choice of face selection and has an interesting analysis on the storyboard. He shares, "Tanmay fills up the space; I mean the mind space that is cluttered with so many similar looking films and ads. He shoves them all aside and grabs your attention in a jiffy. And the rest is a riveting story in the film to launch the new crispy taco. We know him for his hilarious ways of having the joke turned on him and it is best exemplified here."

Sabiha Khan, AVP Account Planning and Strategy, WATConsult, finds it interesting as to how the campaign has a very 'fight for a cause' angle to it with #MakePotatoGreat.

It begs consideration as to whether such unconventional treatment, landing the ad into uncharted territory, was a daunting task on the brand's part.

Khan touches upon a very important notion that given the whole 'potato (carbs) is bad for you' fad that's going around, the potato has often been classified as the enemy and the campaign circles in aptly from a call to action point of view.

However, she points out, "The video is quite lacking in terms of making a convincing pitch. While they have all the right elements, it's fairly predictable as to what the ad was leaning in to and doesn't really end on an interesting high. With Tanmay in the ad, the script could have tackled beliefs, behaviours and emotions to make a more engaging and interesting case around the whole fight for potato angle."

Although Tanmay is a good choice, with his brand of humour, Axon Alex, head - strategy, The 120 Media Collective, concludes with, "While the video ticks the boxes, it could've pushed the boundaries a lot more with the concept and ultimately leaves you with a feeling that it's a good idea that could've been great."

A quick look at some of the ads released by Taco Bell in the past:

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