Best Job Ever: Taco Bell Brand Marketer
When we introduced you to one of Taco Bell’s Food Product Developers Steve Gomez, we discovered that Steve and his team come up with all the crazy, delicious menu item ideas at Taco Bell. But have you ever wondered how we take those crazy menu item ideas and see if they will actually work in more than 7,000 Taco Bell restaurants? The secret? Taco Bell Brand Marketers.
We wanted to learn more about what it takes to be a Brand Marketer at Taco Bell and why it’s one of the best jobs ever, so we met up with the queen of Taco Bell Breakfast, Emili Matsumura.
Question: How would you describe your job as a Brand Marketer?
Emili Matsumura: The job of a Brand Marketer is to manage what we call the product innovation process from the starting point of generating ideas for menu items, to testing those menu items with customers to see if they like it, to ultimately launching the menu item nationally in more than 7,000 restaurants. There’s so much that goes into getting a new menu item into restaurants. We start by ideating new menu item ideas with our food innovation and consumer insights teams. We work with the food innovation team to prototype the winning ideas and then help push the menu items into testing to get the right customer feedback. We work with our operations team to ensure these menu items will actually work in our restaurants and with our finance team to make sure the menu item financials make it a viable business option. With “marketing” in our job title, we also collaborate with our cross functional marketing partners to create the most breakthrough and compelling campaigns to effectively capture our customers and entice them to want to try the menu item. That’s the job in a nutshell, but I’ve barely scratched the surface in explaining what a Brand Marketer does at Taco Bell. There’s so much more when it comes to bringing a menu item to life in our restaurants!
Q: What does it take to get a menu item onto Taco Bell’s national menu?
EM: All of the moving puzzle pieces have to come together in order for a menu item to go national. It of course has to be a winning idea from a customer standpoint. But it also has to make financial sense, operationally work in our restaurants, be able to work in our supply chain, and have a strong marketing hook to name a few major considerations.
Q: What did you study in school?
EM: I studied Business Administration during my undergrad at UC Berkeley and clearly couldn’t get enough, so I went back to school to get my MBA at UCLA.
Q: What kind of job experiences did you have prior to Taco Bell?
EM: My main job experience prior to Taco Bell was working in strategic planning at an advertising agency, which is where I gained a lot of experience in understanding consumer insights and crafting strategic stories that set me up to take on the brand marketing role here at Taco Bell.
Q: How did you come into your role at Taco Bell?
EM: I loved the work I was doing at the advertising agency, but I felt limited in the impact I was making on our clients’ brands. We had a clothing retail client at the time that wasn’t really my personal style, but since they were a client of ours, I would go shop at their stores on occasion. I found that I actually liked a lot of the clothes that they were selling, but the undeniable issue with the brand was that the in-store experience was absolutely terrible. No matter how great their clothes were, or how amazing of an advertisement we could create, nothing I could do was going to change that in-store experience. That’s when I realized I wanted to pursue in-house marketing, where I could actually impact all aspects of a product or service, rather than just the advertising at the end. I decided to go back to school for my MBA and found this job at Taco Bell where I knew I had a say in the entire process, including the in-store experience.
Q: Which menu items have you worked on at Taco Bell?
EM: I’ve had the opportunity to work on some awesome things over the years, including new beverages, desserts, XXL menu items, and probably most notably, breakfast. For breakfast I’ve helped create the Biscuit Taco, Cap’n Crunch Delights, and even a whole $1 Value Menu. Breakfast is my focus now, which is challenging but fun. It’s a whole new day-part for Taco Bell since breakfast was introduced only a few years ago at Taco Bell.
Q: Out of all the projects you’ve worked on at Taco Bell, which one has been your favorite?
EM: Hands down it would be the campaign we developed to celebrate the two year anniversary of Taco Bell’s breakfast menu. That year, we developed our Breakfast Defectors campaign which encouraged consumers to defect from their mundane breakfast routine and to join the Taco Bell breakfast revolution. It was my first time really spearheading the marketing planning process (so it wasn’t without it’s challenges), but it turned out to be an amazing campaign that even won a couple of awards!
Q: What are you working on now at Taco Bell?
EM: I’m working on tons of new things for Breakfast and other fun initiatives for the Taco Bell business. For Breakfast, we’re testing a new value combo called the $3 Breakfast Meal Deal that’s going to blow people’s minds with the amazing value they’re getting for a complete breakfast meal. We also have some exciting new menu items that are going into test markets, including the Naked Breakfast Taco where a fried egg is the taco shell. You just have to see it to believe it.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
EM: I think the most challenging part, but also the most fun, is continuing to think of and inspire breakthrough innovation. Every day we need to push ourselves to think of the ideas that either no one in the past 55 years at Taco Bell has ever thought of, or ideas that can be creatively reframed so that they make sense for Taco Bell now. We have to think of thousands of ideas in order to get to THE one idea that makes it past all of our testing to launch nationally. It’s what keeps us up at night, but is also so exciting when you know that you have a winner on your hands.
Q: Why is your job the best job ever?
EM: Because it’s a marketer’s dream to work for a brand that’s constantly reinventing and pushing itself to uncharted territories. I have the permission to think big and beyond what’s already been done before, which keeps my job fresh and exciting every day. .