As fast-food sales continue their grim slide (see: McDonald's), the smarter chains are scrambling to better cater to today's discerning diner. That means less emphasis on corporate buzzwords like "value" and "convenience" and a renewed focus on the whole "experience." And, that means borrowing heavily from the Chipotle playbook.
You see, the home of the burrito bowl is doing quite the bang-up business in spite of the fact that the Denver-based company spends significantly less on advertising (about 1.75 percent of revenues) than its quick-service forebears (category average: 5 percent).
In an interview with AdWeek, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold explains that "traditional advertising" doesn't always jibe with the brand's preferred form of "storytelling."
And, how do you tell a story without shelling out the big bucks on traditional lines of communication? Well, one proven method is to let your customers tell that story for you.
Consider Taco Bell's new experimental spin-off, U.S. Taco, which AdWeek describes as "a more upscale Mexican food concept" — and one that is very focused on the visual element.
The food is "prepared with smartphone-toting diners in mind, who have a tendency to take pictures of their meals." Hence, you'll find "[o]pen-face tacos" served on soft tortillas "with ingredients piled on top" — a stark contrast to the opague packaged product you normally receive at Taco Bell, which isn't too often camera-ready when you unwrap the hastily mashed-together ingredients.
It doesn't hurt when those ingredients are better-looking to begin with, or at least have the appearance of higher quality than the usual cheap-o fast-food fare. Compare the modern-style descriptors on U.S. Taco's web site ("wild caught seafood…natural steak with no added hormones…small batch, craft sodas") to the vague outdated terms put forth by its corporate parent ("premium seasoned beef…real cheddar cheese").
Making the new taco concept even more transparent —"glass walls let consumers see how the food is prepared" — as opposed to the usual fast-food model of everything getting done somewhere back behind the counter, behind the soft-drink machines, telescreens and other obstructions.
"We know that people eat with their eyes in today’s world, but they also actually eat with their cameras," U.S. Taco co-founder Jeff Jenkins tells AdWeek.
In that case, how bout adopting a more modernized slogan, too — "Instagram Más," anyone?
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