To coincide with the opening of its latest Cantina location on the Vegas strip, Taco Bell is experimenting with something new: retail. The Vegas Cantina’s Taco Shop is officially in business, offering t-shirts, bikinis, swim trunks, and even beach towels that look like hot sauce packets — all emblazoned with the brands iconic logo, which also just so happens to look a little bit different.
Unlike a traditional Taco Bell, the Cantina locations don’t offer drive-thrus. Instead, customers that visit the Vegas location will be met with a wall of alcoholic slushies, digital menu boards (showcasing both the standard fast-food menu, plus some shareable plates), spaces for DJ entertainment, and a retail store. It sounds a bit like a Hard Rock Cafe: A space where tourists and Taco Bell fans alike can pick up a souvenir to go along with their Doritos Locos Tacos. (Yes, this is America, the greatest country in the world, the country that elected Donald Trump to be its next president.)
“For the first time ever, we made Taco Bell a retail destination,” says Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer. There was already a demand for Taco Bell merchandise, says Thalberg, noting that the company often sees people making their own t-shirts. On Etsy, for instance, there are more than 100 handmade Taco Bell t-shirts, emblazoned with lines like “Saved By the (Taco) Bell.”
The Taco Shop offers a selection of merchandise that’s more or less on-brand. There’s a Taco Bell bikini, tie-dyed t-shirts, and a beach towel that is printed to look like a hot sauce packet. It’s the kind of thing one might expect to see in an Urban Outfitters store, rather than a Vegas fast-food joint.
For now, the retail component will serve as a test. “We’re going to have a lot of fun playing around with it and seeing what people respond to,” says Thalberg, before the company moves to open more Taco Shops.
Retail isn’t the only thing new about Taco Bell these days. The brand also unveiled a new logo today — the first time the trademark has seen a change since its debut in 1995. “Some people might not even notice the change,” notes Thalberg. But the company has given “the tiniest little makeover” to the bell, an iconic piece of Taco Bell imagery.
“The logo on Taco Bells now is fun but slightly dated, although warm and fuzzy,” says Thalberg. “We started playing with that and had this epiphany moment. One of things that tends to be identifiable about a brand is color. But the Taco Bell brand isn’t a color, it’s color.”
To translate this out of marketing jargon, this means large restaurant signs will likely utilize the new logo in purple, but it could appear in different colors in advertisements and on packaging. And that iconic bell? It will soon start showing up alone (a la the famous Nike swoosh or the Target bullseye), without the Taco Bell name attached. “The bell is really in that rarified strata brand imagery,” says Thalberg. So are you looking forward to shopping at the Taco Shop? Do let us know, in the comments below.