Why Taco Bell is Getting Multicultural Marketing Wrong
Taco Bell has long had what I consider to be one of the best advertising taglines in the fast food industry - "Think Outside the Bun." In just four words, they have managed to capture the entire essence of the brand and it's place in the fast food landscape in a way that not only differentiates them, but carves a niche that no one else has truly been able to capture. With the growing Hispanic population in America, their multicultural marketing efforts have increasingly focused on reaching a hispanic audience - with plans to do more. Yet the one thing I haven't seen yet from Taco Bell is any advertising focusing on a multicultural niche that they currently dominate ... Indians. What you don't know about Taco Bell is that many Indians love it. While this is a point that most Indian communities treat with some humor, the fact remains that Taco Bell stands out among fast food options for Indians and many other Asian communities. Much of the menu is vegetarian, or easily modified for vegetarians. You can order the food spicy or with extra hot sauce. Taco Bell is often the only fast food these members of these niche groups will eat.
Yet when it comes to multicultural marketing, Taco Bell seems to be focusing on a reluctant Hispanic community and ignoring the others. I am Indian - and I wouldn't eat Indian fast food unless I was desperate. It's easy to imagine that a Mexican consumer might have the same view about Taco Bell. Changing that opinion is a tough uphill battle going against a deeply imbedded world view. It's not a battle they will win. Wouldn't it make more sense for Taco Bell to focus some of their multicultural ad dollars on the Indians and other niche markets like us? This is a common strategic hole in multicultural marketing today ... that it is often boiled down to solely allocating a small slice of budget to reach Hispanics and African Americans. These are the two largest minorities in the US, yet marketing to different cultures requires a broader view than just translating ads to spanish and changing imagery to include African Americans (which is, sadly, the extent of many "multicultural" marketing campaigns). Multicultural today means thinking more broadly and understanding better where your niches are. Are you targeting your multicultural consumer right - or are you unintentionally ignoring some of your best customers?
Updated Disclaimer (12/20/06) - Recently, Taco Bell has started working with Ogilvy PR and is now a client. At the time of this original post, however, I was not aware of any work being done for them by Ogilvy PR.