Taco Bell establishes youth panel

Taco Bell is establishing a long-term youth panel to help the fast-food marketer tap into youth culture and solicit advice on its impending Canadian expansion. The panel, which is being organized and run by the chain's Toronto-based advertising agency, TBWA Chiat/Day,...

Taco Bell is establishing a long-term youth panel to help the fast-food marketer tap into youth culture and solicit advice on its impending Canadian expansion.

The panel, which is being organized and run by the chain’s Toronto-based advertising agency, TBWA Chiat/Day, will comprise about a dozen young people. The group will advise the Mexican-food restaurant chain, best known for its chattering chihuahua spokesdog, which music and movies are considered cool as well as how best to market new food products here in Canada, says Shelagh Stoneham, Taco Bell’s director of marketing.

This is the first such panel for Taco Bell in either the U.S. or Canada. A similar panel is run by Pizza Hut in the U.S., she says.

‘We are rapidly expanding here and we want to hear what our core customers think,’ says Stoneham.

Tricon Global Restaurants (Canada), which owns and markets Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, plans to open between 300 and 400 Taco Bell locations in the next five years.

Panelists were chosen by a recruiter last month for their outspoken nature and ability to keep up with trends. By keeping the panel small, informal and consistent, Taco Bell is hoping to avoid the pitfalls and canned answers that come out of typical focus groups, says Stoneham. The group will meet once a month and talk informally about what is happening in youth culture and their lives. The group will also be asked their opinion of new Taco Bell products and marketing.

The panel will not replace quantitative research done by the company, but is expected to help ‘fill in the blanks’ and capture the unique voice of the company’s core young consumers, she says.

Youth culture is typically difficult to understand and fraught with danger for the average marketer, says Jennifer Ralston, Taco Bell account director at Chiat/Day. With the establishment of the youth panel, the agency is hoping to help its client get a leg up on its competition.

‘There is not a lot of solid information out there on youth marketing and there is a very thin line between what is hip and what is definitely not hip,’ she says.

In the future, Chiat/Day is hoping to take any lessons learned and possibly create a permanent youth panel that could provide intelligence for the agency’s other clients.

Taco Bell has been left behind somewhat in the recent expansion of the fast food market in Canada. According to NPD Foodservice Information Group, the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector has grown by 24% over the past five years, and now accounts for 62% of all restaurant traffic. At the same time, however, the popularity of Mexican fare has waned in Canada, accounting for only 13% of all meals ordered in 1999 – a 7% drop from the previous year.

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.