Taco Bell’s massive brand revamp is tamer than before

Looks as if JCP isn’t the only national brand undertaking a major marketing revamp.  We can add Taco Bell to the list.

Taco Bell’s new TV campaign, just launched, is timed to coincide with the chain’s 50th anniversary and the unveiling of several new menu items, the most heavily hyped of which is a taco product made with Doritos.  

The first commercial from DraftFCB/Orange Country heralding all that is changing at the Mexican fast food outlet broke last weekend. It was directed by Jake Scott, son of famed director Ridley “Gladiator” Scott.

A departure from everything we have come to expect  from Taco Bell advertising, this new spot is apparently intended to demonstrate just how massive an image transformation is being undertaken here.

Gone, for starters, is the oh-so-familiar advertising tag line that Taco Bell spent who knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars firmly embedding in consumers’ minds over the past decade. 

“Think Outside the Bun” is now “Live Mas”

We’re talking, of course, about “Think Outside the Bun,” which we have long considered to be a better-than-decent tag line for the brand — one that manages to suggest Taco Bell is not just another standard-issue fast food operation, while also indicating the cuisine is something other than standard burger-type fare.

What has replaced “Think Outside the Bun” is “Live Mas,” which means “Live More.” This new line is supposed to be about establishing the chain as a lifestyle brand, which, in all honesty, seems a bit of a stretch for a fast food company that —until now — always appeared to revel unabashedly in its bawdy, down market image.

At least that’s how the Taco Bell advertising often struck us.  There was occasionally a bit of genuine humor in the “Think Outside the Bun” work, but more often than not, the old work was loud and in-your-face. But that was okay by us.

There is a place for the likes of Taco Bell in the fast food world, and the chain seemed only too happy to fill that slot.

New ad approach tamer, more low key

So what is taking the place of often outrageous “Think Outside the Bun” TV commercials as Taco Bell seeks to establish a new image?  Something that looks and feels a lot tamer.  More low-key. 

And if this first commercial is any indication of what’s to come, much less fun.

This new commercial shows a young gentleman arriving home from what must have been a busy night out on the town. How do we knows this?  Not from flashbacks. Rather from the contents of his pockets, which he shows us bit by bit by bit.  Wallet.  Cell phone. Keys.  There’s also a strip of photographs perhaps taken at one of those fun little photo booths.  A ticket stub from a  concert.  A pair of dice and, perhaps most importantly, a sauce packet from Taco Bell.

So what does this slow reveal add up to?  Not much that’s exciting, that’s for sure. But more importantly, what does the commercial say about Taco Bell? 

Well, if pressed, we’d have to conclude that people with active lifestyles somehow find their way to a Taco Bell. Which isn’t a bad message.  But this new spot doesn’t really convey that in a memorable way.

Though the commercial is slickly executed, it badly needs an injection of some wit or more surprise than we are given.  Perhaps that will come in later executions. But right now Taco Bell looks to be serving up a lifestyle message that is way too bland to break out of the box and mark the chain as a contender.

Taco Bell sales declined this past year

We should also note that this massive adjustment in Taco Bell advertising comes a year or so after the fast food chain was forced to deal with claims made in a lawsuit that Taco Bell used a lot of filler along with some hamburger meat in some of its products.

The allegations were never proven in court, and the lawsuit was dropped. But the damage was done.  Taco Bell sales have been down over the past year.  It now looks as if the chain is trying to turn things around by giving the brand a new image so everyone will know what’s past is past.

Marketing can do a lot, but it can’t always make consumers forget.  We’ll see.

Click here to see the new Taco Bell spot. 

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com