Monday, December 7, 2015

This American Life had two thirds of a great episode on marketing

Don't get me wrong. The whole episode (569: Put a Bow on It) is very good, but only two of the three segments concern branding and marketing. The first explores the process behind developing the increasingly bizarre junk food hybrids that are coming to dominate the industry.

Zoe Chace
There are a few reasons that guys like these are churning through these food mashups right now. One big one is fast food is losing market share to places like Chipotle, Panera, more upscale, healthier. So a way for fast food to compete is to go in the other direction-- downscale, greasier, sell to their core customers, 18 to 34-year-old guys. Though industry analysts told me it's nearly as many women as men.

And of course, there's money to be made in selling a sandwich that makes people want to take a picture of themselves while they eat it, but only to a point. The question is, will they eat it twice? The Double Down, you know the one where the chicken is the bun, as groundbreaking as it was, it didn't sell that great after people tried it once. Brad, Bruce, Mark, and Eric say it's too expensive to roll out a new product that you'd never order twice.

This is a taco that's the talk of the town.

Zoe Chace
What they want is something that food industry people say Taco Bell did better than anybody in 2012, when they released that taco whose shell was a Dorito.

It's what one marketing consultant calls a marriage made in belly busting heaven. Doritos, the Super Bowl brand that helped turn America into a nation of chunky chip munchers, providing a nacho cheese flavored shell.

Zoe Chace
The Doritos Locos Taco sold and sold and sold and sold-- $375 million in its first year. This is an amazing year for Taco Bell. Every sandwich that arrives on our plates here in Hardee's test kitchen, that is the goal.

From a marketing standpoint, the most interesting part was the way the experts considered both the appeal of the food and the salability of the concept.

Even more fascinating from a marketing perspective is the third segment. TAL called up the best advertising and PR people in the business and asked them what they would propose if Volkswagen had engaged them to rehabilitate its badly damaged brand. There is a Jack in the Box connection with both segments, but surprisingly it's stronger in the third (strong enough that you might want to check out the videos before listening to the episode).

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