Former Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed and current company CMO Ken Muench have released a new book, a how-to guide to their marketing practices behind Taco Bell and other Yum brands.
Muench said in short, the book is “lighter on the BS than most marketing books, heavier on the practical side.”
The book, “RED Marketing: The Three Ingredients of Leading Brands”, is part an internship and part telling the story of how “RED” took shape within Yum’s marketing affiliate, Collider. For quite some time at Taco Bell, the acronym – which stands for relevance, ease and distinctiveness – has become the guide to marketing and branding for Yum.
Creed, who retired in January 2020 (what a fantastic timing), said he was excited to see the approach become the marketing practice within the international fast food giant and beyond.
âI think the most humiliating thing is that every marketing conference at Yum is a RED conference,â Creed said. “It was interesting to see the people who left Yum and you can see the influence of RED in their work, you can see that they believe in RED so much that they take this idea with them.”
Basically, RED suggests that all marketing efforts should focus on three things: culturally relevant, provide easy access (what’s easier than a drive-thru?) And stand out from the competition.
Finding cultural relevance
The seed of the idea started at Taco Bell as the brand slipped.
âAt first it was very clear that we had a problem with Taco Bell. We kept lowering the prices trying to push it up and do some distinctive advertising. It just wasn’t working, we felt like to pull an anchor. We did some really extensive research and found out that Taco Bell was kind of a joke, âMuench said.â It was fine in the 1990s or early 2000s, but in 2011 , there was Instagram and the foodie-ism was coming of age. It was then that we first realized that there was a clear idea of ââcultural relevance. “
He and Creed were working on the ease by lowering the prices and the campaigns were distinctive, but that relevance was lacking because the culture around food had changed.
âIn 2010 Ken came over and said, ‘Food has gone from fuel to experience. âWe had marketed as fuel, but it became an experiment,â Creed said. âI remember telling David Novak,” then CEO of Yum, “that we were going this way, he thought it was. absolutely crazy. He loved Think Outside the Bun. But when I said what Ken said, that food had gone from fuel to experience, he was on board. “
Taco Bell did a “full 180”, and today it remains a marketing and cultural juggernaut. Nacho Fries has been one of QSR’s most important new menu items for years, Dorito-loco tacos are still all over Instagram and Baja Blast might as well be in the dictionary today.
The new book sheds light on the how and why of this journey, but also denounces some of the short-termism and outright nonsense rooted in so many marketing practices today, some of which actually hurt brands in the long run.
âIt’s a how-to guide. But the underlying theme of the book, I would say, is that marketing has to be about building a great brand,â Muench said. âUnfortunately, there are a lot of marketers out there – let’s call them technical marketers – maybe they are shaking up sales in the short term, but the brand becomes less relevant. So, focus on both sides. Yes, you have to practice. marketing but never forget the brand. “
The book also takes a critical look at the marketing âmust-havesâ you see in Twitter threads or at marketing conferences that don’t work for everyone.
âWe wanted to tackle any myths or quick fixes in marketing, like every brand needs a social purpose or to create an emotional connection, the answer is you aren’t. There are a few brands that have used it. a social purpose, and it worked for them because their social purpose made them distinctive. If you go with it in mind, you’re trying to have a social purpose, that’s crazy, âCreed said. Tired of reading all this brand love stuff. We felt like we had to say, ‘Stop the crazy people.’ “
Regarding a practical overview of the book, Muench said that a key part is measuring the marketing response. Don’t over-analyze every word in a conference room; which only measures what the marketing department thinks.
âStop testing the creation before it launches, that’s probably a main lesson,â Muench said. âWhat you are testing is that people will like my creation. Itâs testing the wave, you have to be a bolder marketer and you have to say, ‘This is what I believe. This is the research I did. “”
Creed said the process works outside of QSR as well. He sees the same mindset behind Tide Pods: It’s not about cleaning clothes, every detergent does. But pods are a distinctive and easy way to do it. He said it also works with marketing teams of all sizes and budgets.
âWithin Yum we have a lot of money; if you add that up it makes billions. But in some departments it’s quite small. I find the best job we do is the one where we have less. marketing dollars, âCreed said. “When you don’t have money for marketing, you have to think really hard.”