Our Foodie Friday Fun this week starts at Taco Bell. No, this is not another rant on quick service restaurant food.
In fact, I happen to enjoy it from time to time. Today’s screed is about a new product at Taco Bell: the Starburst Freeze. “Starburst,” you say, “isn’t that candy?” Why yes. Taco Bell is selling a candy-flavored slush that, in the words of an Eater story, kind of looks like icy Pepto-Bismol. Yummy!
Putting aside the appropriateness of any food business selling what looks like something to relieve indigestion, there is another point this product raises. Obviously this is a cobranded item. Cobranding is not uncommon in business. Some examples include Crest Plus Scope, Tide Plus Febreeze and Dawn Plus Olay – all brands owned by Proctor & Gamble and there are numerous products involving to discrete companies as well. That’s not my issue.
Taco Bell is pseudo Tex-Mex food. While we can debate the merits of a Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch, the inclusion of Doritos – a corn chip arising from Mexican food if one digs deeply enough – makes sense. It relates to the core positioning of the brand. It fits on the menu. Strawberry Starbursts? Not so much. Other freeze drinks on their menu – one with Dr. Pepper and another with Mountain Dew – sort of make sense – they’re based on soda served ubiquitously. If the shake was a chocolate candy and had cinnamon, almonds and chipotle, one could argue they were being extremely authentic to the brand since that’s a very Mexican shake. Maybe they should have paired with Almond Joy?
Any time we add products we run the risk of diluting our core brand perception. Trying to be all things to everyone just means we slide toward commodity status. We need to state who we are as brands and do nothing that makes the consumer wonder if that initial brand statement is still true. If they’re asking “who are you?” we’re in trouble. Unless you enjoy competing on price alone, which is how commodities sell.
The simple test here is to ask someone where would one expect to buy a Gordita and where one might buy a Strawberry Starburst Freeze. My guess is you wouldn’t get the same place in response to the question which tells me that the latter item doesn’t belong.