In 2018, the fast-food business was all about cheap food. Taco Bell, which caters specifically to the budget crowd, was not about to lose that business. But the Mexican QSR chain did value in its own way—by innovating its food, but also by marketing it beyond the price point.
It started 2018 by launching Nacho Fries with a campaign targeting burger giant McDonald’s. It continues to provide innovative products that both cater to those budget-conscious consumers and gets them excited.
While the LTOs may be nontraditional and even a little funky, Taco Bell has been able to continually generate buzz about these offerings by being wholly self-aware and maximizing its brand voice. It’s Thalberg—who joined the brand after a stint in marketing with beauty company Estee Lauder—who is responsible for that voice, thus driving the strategy.
“I love this idea that we create access to food people want, not just what they can afford,” she told Fortune late last year. She’s pushed Taco Bell to feel like a smaller brand, despite its reach, to have more of a connection with guests. It’s that conversation and trust she’s established with customers that allows Taco Bell to win with its out-there menu items.