Every once in a while, an opportunity comes along that you know is special. It makes you stop in your tracks and think, “Hey – soak this in. This could be a once-in-a-career type of moment.”
In advertising, we work with brands a lot. We help create them, shape them and shift them. What doesn’t happen a lot is being tasked with a rebrand for a major quick service restaurant chain like Taco John’s®. That’s one of those “pay-attention-this-is-special” moments that not a lot of agencies (or writers) get to experience. I count myself as one of the lucky few.
This month we’ve launched a new tagline, advertising campaign, website and overall brand for Taco John’s, a restaurant chain with 400+ locations known for Potato Olés® and Taco Tuesday®. The change comes on the heels of many at the company. After CEO Jeff Linville joined the TJ team in 2013, he set a clear vision for the chain aimed at rapid restaurant growth and a revamped image that appeals to a younger consumer base. Our goal: make the TJ brand relevant for Millennials while not alienating current guests.
Once this vision was communicated, the L&S research team went to work. We conducted surveys with 1,200 QSR customers nationwide and hosted focus groups in existing TJ markets and potential ones like Salt Lake City and Louisville. We wanted to learn what’s important to QSR guests and find the area that Taco John’s could own – something we called “white space,” the unoccupied space Taco John’s could color in and take hold of.
We found that for many guests, Taco John’s means nostalgia – it’s the Mexican fast food place they grew up with. But in new markets, that nostalgia means nothing. At the same time, Taco John’s wasn’t intriguing to Millennial customers, although they ended up loving the food and how Taco John’s has been making it for 45 years. As one focus group participant said, “They must be doing something right.”
That’s what the Taco John’s brand needed to be built around – the things TJ does right that others don’t. The bold flavor fusions that add up to original menu items unlike anything else. Potato Olés®, a burger that’s also a taco, Mexican-inspired wings, burritos at breakfast…the list goes on. For half a century, Taco John’s has zigged when other places have zagged. They’ve been unapologetic about using real ingredients, not taking shortcuts and doing things a little differently.
This insight led to Unwrap the Original, Taco John’s new brand position. Unwrap the Original celebrates originality both within the TJ brand and its customers, speaking to the maverick in all of us. It’s a tribute to owning a style and flavor that’s all your own. Even more, it’s a call to action for customers to unwrap something new and develop a connection with Taco John’s.
From there, the brand took off. Unwrap the Original drove a new brand voice, tone and look. Our design team refreshed Taco John’s graphic standards to guide new packaging, point-of-purchase materials, a killer responsive website, social media makeover and more.
The Unwrap the Original broadcast campaign also launches this month featuring a new spokesperson that embodies our brand voice. And still to come, Taco John’s will update menuboards, uniforms and even restaurant designs to take Unwrap the Original to the next level.
It’s been an exciting transformation to watch. And even more exciting than being a part of it is seeing how our team has come together to embrace it. 5280? Oh yeah. Every discipline at L&S has worked collaboratively with the Taco John’s team to make this rebrand a “once-in-a-career” milestone.
Personally, this rebrand has been one of the scariest and most rewarding things I’ve ever worked on. And that’s usually how it is, right? You’ll never do great work if you’re not ready to take risks. Thanks to the Taco John’s and L&S teams for recognizing the moment and taking the leap.