Taco Bell looks for the beauty in being messy

The QSR's first big Canadian brand campaign puts personality over product, celebrating pride in being shamelessly over-the-top.


In its first Canadian mass brand campaign, Taco Bell is trying to showcase a bit more of its personality.

“For quite some time, a lot of our communications have focused on our [product] innovations,” says Devon Lawrence, senior brand manager at Taco Bell Canada. Most of the QSR’s Canada-specific marketing in recent year has been social and experiential work promoting things like the Cheetos Crunchwrap Slider or the launch of Mountain Dew Baja Blast in its restaurants.

While that has been effective in reaching younger communities of fans, and product innovation is its lifeblood to those fans, Lawrence says that to grow the brand long-term more people have to know how it expresses itself.

“What we’ve been learning more and more is that we haven’t really talked about our personality or broader brand message, and that’s what people want to see from brands, especially these days,” Lawrence says.

The spot launching the “Beautiful Mess” campaign shows Gen Zs spilling taco sauce onto their phones and lettuce into their library books, but doing so with almost of sense of pride. It equates the literal messes with being figuratively “messy” – being the kind of person who is unafraid to express themselves, shoot their shot with a crush or get impulsive tattoos.

At the end of the day, while it’s about selling tacos, it’s also about connecting that to a personality and ownable equities that sets its apart from other QSR choices, like burgers. “We’re crunchy, we’re cheesy, we’re spicy and we are messy,” Lawrence says. These attributes, she says, can also be personified as they are in the ad, and that being messy is real, and universally relatable, especially for younger consumers.

Taco Bell partnered with Dentsu One to develop the creative concept behind Beautiful Mess and execute it through an integrated marketing approach, with a buy handled by Wavemaker. Ad spend, Lawrence says, is bigger for this integrated camapign than it would be to promote a new product innovation.

Lawrence says the spirit of the brand is very youthful, and that it has a bit of a rebel attitude that comes from being young and carefree and that its media mix reflects this. The campaign includes a 15-second version of the longer video airing on TV, as well as OOH ads near Taco Bell storefronts in Toronto and Calgary.

And the brand hasn’t left the social side of its mix behind. On the digital front, Taco Bell is partnering with a series of creators – including Twitch streamers Mtashed, TheStefSanjati and DeadlyCreatorYT, as well as TikTok creators @laframbuesaa and @topebabalola – to bring the content to life.

Twitch is a space Taco Bell been playing in for a long time, Lawrence says, and says Taco Bell is continuing to grow its more recent TikTok presence.

Taco Bell will run with “messy” positioning throughout 2022 to see what the response is, Lawrence says. Throughout 2022, Taco Bell will also host several activations to celebrate tacos and the messiness that comes with them, including messy story times and muckbangs – videos dedicated to eating in front of a camera.