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Lisa Mason stood outside a Chicago restaurant at 9:15 a.m. on a recent sunny Monday, where she would continue to wait for two hours. She wasn’t there for breakfast. She was there to get a $1 burrito.

fast food

Mason was the first person in line at the new Chicago outpost of Dos Toros, a New York-based fast-casual taqueria opening its second location in the Windy City. By the time the doors opened at 11:30 a.m., more than 200 people stood on the sidewalk in a line that stretched across the West Jackson Boulevard bridge over the Chicago River.

Prelaunch, Dos Toros did almost no marketing (think teaser signs in its windows pitching the new location, and promoting the $1 opening-day offer on social media), just some grassroots outreach. It included visiting employees in the office building where the restaurant is located, a soft opening days before the launch at which tenants got free burritos and tacos, and an email from the building concierge to tenants reminding them of the $1 deal.

“The term ‘influencer’ gets thrown around, but simply, somebody that works upstairs is a huge influencer for you, whether they have an Instagram or not,” says Marcus Byrd, marketing manager at Dos Toros.

Leo Kremer, who founded Dos Toros nine years ago with his brother, Oliver, says this approach to marketing works because the most-needed piece has already been placed: the location. The new Dos Toros is in an area filled with office buildings, and close to a commuter train station.

Read more at Ad Age:

Brands. They’re all around us, and their power is beyond measure. But which brand is best? We can make feeble attempts to rank fast-food chains, gaming franchises and ’90s sitcoms, but there has been no way to know for sure. Until now. Welcome to Brand Slam.

Using the hyper-accurate simulations offered by modern computing, we can create entirely accurate representations of our favorite (and most feared) brands, and pit them against one another in the cleanest, most honest form of competition known to man: professional wrestling.

In our first season, we’re stress testing a team of eight powerful fast-food brands. Panda Express, Papa John’s, Domino’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell and McDonald’s will lay it all on the line to be crowned the king of fast food.

In our premiere episode above, you’ll see the opening bout between the Burger King and the dreaded Domino’s Noid, as well as a hair-raising confrontation between the Panda Express Panda and Wendy’s own Dave Thomas.

Read more at Polygon:

Country music fans might instantly recognize the voice of the first woman to play KFC’s Colonel Sanders, but for others, it could take several seconds before figuring out who’s in the sparkly white suit.

“I’m Colonel Sanders,” Reba McEntire, disguised as the man himself, belts out in the opening seconds of the chain’s latest spot. “Same as always, absolutely nothing’s changed.”

McEntire the colonel is on stage at a honky-tonk bar, and when she starts singing, the audience goes nuts. She tosses her white cowboy hat out into the revelers, revealing a quick cut of the “real” McEntire, who catches the hat on her head.

Wearing a wig, facial hair, glasses and a fringed, sparkly white suit, McEntire dons a look similar to that of the nine male celebrities who have starred in the ever-changing Colonel role. She’s the first woman, and the first music superstar, to play the part, which originated with Darrell Hammond in May 2015. Her spot, from KFC agency Wieden & Kennedy Portland, is also the first one to feature dancing policemen.

“I grew up with Kentucky Fried Chicken,” McEntire said in a KFC statement. “It’s part of my story, and I’m so excited to now be part of theirs. I’ve held a lot of roles in my life—sort of like the Colonel himself— but this is certainly the most unique one yet.”

What she’s part of, specifically, is selling the chain’s newest regional flavor, Smoky Mountain BBQ fried chicken.

Smoky Mountain BBQ is the Yum Brand Inc. chain’s third southern-inspired flavor. Vincent Kartheiser played the Nashville Hot fried chicken colonel in 2016, followed by Billy Zane as the Georgia Gold Colonel in 2017. Ray Liotta was then the face of both of those flavors in a campaign that broke in September.

The colonel who came just before McEntire was unknown actor Christopher Boyer, a non-celebrity chosen to be the value colonel. The others, in order of appearance, have been Hammond, Norm Macdonald, Jim Gaffigan, George Hamilton, Rob Riggle, Kartheiser, Zane, Rob Lowe and Liotta.

KFC isn’t the only brand McEntire works with. Her other projects include a “REBA by Justin” footwear line, Reba apparel at Dillard’s and a line of cosmetics.

from Creativity-Online:

The country’s oldest burger chain has consolidated its creative account with Merkley+Partners.

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White Castle selected Merkley+Partners as its new creative agency of record without a review after assigning the retail portion of its creative account to the agency last July. Resource/Ammirati formerly handled the fast food portion of the account, after being selected as agency of record following the brand’s last review in 2014, replacing Zimmerman Advertising. Crossmedia New York continues to handle media buying and planning for White Castle.

White Castle spent around $7.8 million on measured media in 2016 and $7.6 million in the first six months of 2016, according to Kantar Media.

“Certainly, there are efficiencies by consolidating our business with one agency. However, having worked with Merkley for some time now, what really excites us are the ideas and energy we know they will bring to our communications with our consumers, also known as ‘Craver Nation’,” White Castle CMO Kim Bartley said in a statement.

“Expanding our relationship with White Castle satisfies a craving we’ve had for some time now,” added White Castle CEO Alex Gellert. “It makes us very proud to be awarded additional assignments from clients that you already know, respect and really enjoy working with.”

from AgencySpy:

Taco Bell has been busy lately, from unveiling self-serve kiosks to releasing of Nacho Fries to bolstering its leadership team—most notably hiring Julie Felss Masino as brand president—in just the last two months. And the brand is not stepping away from the spotlight anytime soon. “We’ll definitely be innovating more in 2018,” says Matt Prince, Taco Bell spokesperson.


In terms of what to look forward to, Prince says, “Fans will see familiar favorites with a fun twist, as well as completely new items. We’ll also continue the innovation off the menu—continuing to push culturally relevant moments and collaborations as we did in 2017 with Lyft, Forever 21 and OpenTable.” In July 2017, Taco Bell and Lyft unveiled the companies’ “Taco Mode” partnership, which allows Lyft customers to tack on a ride-thru at Taco Bell on the way to their destination of choice through Lyft’s app. Starting in October 2017, Taco Bell fans can now pick up the restaurant’s hot sauce–inspired apparel at Forever 21; and, also in October, Taco Bell partnered with OpenTable to open up reservations for a special National Taco Day dinner at the Taco Bell Test Kitchen.

“The primary factor at the root of our continued success is our innovative spirit,” Prince says. “Ever since Glen Bell entered the burger marketplace with tacos, Taco Bell has pushed innovation, accessibility, and affordability. We also lean into the passion and cult of our fans, connecting them with each other and their passions.”

In 2018, then, expect more partnerships capitalizing on the brand’s fandom in the vein of the 2017 Lyft, Forever 21, and OpenTable collaborations.

Keeping the brand agile, 2017 brought technology innovation to Taco Bell, an arena where, Prince says, the company will continue to focus efforts. “Our fantastic relationship with our franchisees has allowed Taco Bell to fund new technology initiatives for 2018 and beyond,” he says. With 2017’s digital efforts of expanded delivery, group ordering, and self-serve kiosks, Taco Bell is aiming to improve the customer experience with “frictionless digital experiences,” Prince says.

Taco Bell’s expansion last year, however, was not limited to the digital world. “2017 was a year that included a great deal of international expansion in Europe, China, and elsewhere, bringing our global total to over 400 restaurants in 26 countries,” which brings Taco Bell’s count today to around 7,000 restaurants, Prince says. Globally, the company hopes to grow to 9,000 restaurants over the next five years. And, in each new market, Taco Bell is bending and adapting as needed to fit local tastes, cultures, and preferences. In December, the company announced two new Shanghai, China restaurants, the menus of which feature a ribeye steak and mushroom taco, beef kebab nachos, and the Shanghai Cosmopolitan cocktail.

But don’t think that, with so much expansion elsewhere, Taco Bell would let its American menu stagnate. “We’re planning to roll out 20 new $1 test or limited-time-offer items through 2018 as part of our biggest value push in company history,” Prince says. “This begins with our highly anticipated $1 Nacho Fries [in January], and will include some fun takes on some our most popular menu items as well.”

“Whether it’s the unexpected flavors of the Naked Chicken Chalupa [the chicken-shelled menu item released in January 2017] or turning breakfast inside out with the Naked Egg Taco [fried egg is the taco shell here], Taco Bell takes fan feedback to heart and uses it to drive improvement and innovation,” Prince says. “We’ll continue to test menu items in select markets to gauge consumer reaction before we consider debuting them nationally.“

The Yum! Brands chain enjoyed a strong 2017 financially, reporting worldwide system sales growth of 6 percent in the third quarter versus the prior-year period. Yum! opened 70 Taco Bells in the quarter to bring its total count to 6,738. In the third quarter, the company debuted 15 new international units.