“Great work cannot be created in a vacuum.” This was one of the first adages laid on me as a young copywriter by agency founder Craig Lawrence. He spoke the truth. In the years since then, I’ve found myself in all sorts of interesting places trying to get a working feel for our client’s products – from observing open-heart surgery in an operating room to trudging through Wisconsin dairy barns to testing fishing gear on Florida bass ponds to spending a day at flight attendant school in Dallas. Anything to better understand the brand so we could effectively sell it to our audience.
Today, we’re taking that idea one step further with our client, Taco John’s International. TJI has given our agency a unique opportunity to actually have a hand in product development. For the past two years, I’ve personally been a member of Taco John’s menu committee – the only one who neither owns a franchise nor works at TJI. I’d love to say it was my idea to have an L&S team member on the committee, but I’d be lying. It was their idea – and it was a great one.
Having a seat on the menu committee allows L&S to play a vital role in their new product development – at a level beyond any we’ve experienced as an agency. We’re able get familiar with new menu items as they’re dreamed up, and then taste, critique and discuss the merits of each new offering as it comes out of the test kitchen. More importantly, we’re there from inception to introduction, working side by side with TJI as those items make their way to the menu. Together with the Taco John’s R&D team, we’re able to gather insights, test names and positioning and develop our marketing messages as the new menu items develop. The marketing proceeds on a parallel track with the product optimization, instead of being launched after the fact.
In the end, this enhanced level of access allows the agency to develop great first-hand knowledge of the menu item and the guest’s reaction to it, and a stronger sense of ownership for the product. Our positioning is informed by a real sense of intimacy, having literally been with these menu items since their birth. The result has been twenty-three consecutive months of same-store growth for Taco John’s – making this approach one we’re interested in replicating with other clients open to this level of inclusion.