Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An interesting story in today's business news says Taco Bell is opening restaurants in Mexico. By changing the branding strategy – “Taco Bell is something else” – the company will attempt to distance itself from comparison to Mexico's taquerias. Taquerias sell traditional corn tortillas stuffed with an endless variety of fillings, from spicy beef to corn fungus and cow eyes. Taco Bell plans on selling the same menu items as in the United States. It's like bringing ice to the Arctic,” complained pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais.

But because Taco Bell's version of “Mexican food” is so unrecognizable to Mexicans, it is being promoted there as American fast food. That's a change, since Taco Bell uses Mexican themes in the US to sell how “authentically Mexican” it is.
One of the company’s many slogans will work in both countries — “Make a run for the border.”

“Taco Bell wants to take advantage of the perception that if something comes from the United States, it tastes better, that a country that has been Americanized is willing to Americanize food that is central to its cuisine,” Carlos Monsivais said. “It is an absurd idea, and given that it's so absurd, it may just be successful in upper-class areas.”

Carlos Monsiváis is Mexico's leading cultural critic, and Mexico City's greatest living chronicler. He has written extensively and in evocative journalistic detail about Mexican history, culture and politics. He was born May 4, 1938, in Mexico City, and studied philosophy, economics and literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

While there is a multitude of Starbucks outlets in Mexico, they are mainly in wealthier neighborhoods. Taco Bell is aiming at a different demographic – opening in the solidly middle-class Monterrey suburb of Apodaca, an area where residents may not have traveled to the United States.

“We want to appeal to consumers who haven't tried Taco Bell, for whom this would be their first experience with Taco Bell,” said Javier Rancano, the company's director in Mexico.

While some "defenders" of Mexican culture see the chain's re-entry to Mexico as a crowning insult to a society already overrun by U.S. chains from Starbucks and Subway to Kentucky Fried Chicken, I applaud the initiative because is shows that Yum Brands Inc., the owner of the Taco Bell franchise is operating with a global mindset and is willing to cross cultures.

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