Section 4 - Case Studies
Tecate Campaign
Paragon Cable
House Foods

Lincoln Mercury
El Pollo Loco
La Opinion
Dinero Seguro
Harris Bank

1999 Campaign Title "Romancing the Chicken"


Marketing Context
Until Q.3, 1998, EL POLLO LOCO’s positioning was fragmented and it considered its competitors to include: Taco Bell, Del Taco, McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Subway as well as KFC, Boston Market and Popeye’s--in short, every type of restaurant in the fast food category. Consequently, its advertising, promotion and pricing reflected this fragmented approach. One spot would emphasize variety, another value and, yet another, child appeal. Additionally, ten promotions were scheduled throughout the year with insufficient media dollars to adequately support either their delivery or their objective to generate immediate awareness of any one of them. As a result, sales declined significantly during several quarters prior to the featured campaign period, while other fast food chains continued to see gains. Specifically, Hispanic sales volume had decreased for two consecutive years; -.8% between 1996 and 1997 and -2% between 1997 and 1998.

Our challenges were several. First, was to get the client refocused on its core product: Marinated and flame-broiled chicken. It seemed that, in its quest to be "all things to all people," it had forgotten its "reason for being" in the first place. Second, was to develop advertising which would help deliver this new positioning, while also delivering the promotional call to action so important to building traffic during promotional periods. Focus group research indicated that EL POLLO LOCO had successfully held onto strong consumer perceptions of Flavor/Taste and Food Quality and Value, so we knew we were on the right track. Third, the campaign had to capitalize on the "Fresh Mex" craze by emphasizing EL POLLO LOCO’s inherently fresh and healthy approach to Mexican food. Thus, the agency worked to redefine and narrow EL POLLO LOCO’s positioning and, in turn, its competitive set. Since this new positioning work was undertaken and adopted by EL POLLO LOCO, the direction has also been adopted by the client’s General Market agency (Non-Hispanic).

Campaign Planning
Focus groups were conducted as were intercept interviews at various EL POLLO LOCO locations in high Hispanic density neighborhoods. In addition, observational research was conducted, not only of how consumers interacted with the EL POLLO LOCO environment and its employees, but also its menu boards, point-of-sale, eating and parking facilities and drive-though service. Further, in-depth analysis was prepared of Quick Track, the category quarterly syndicated study. This study allowed us to determine where EL POLLO LOCO stood relative to its "true" competition in terms of awareness, ad awareness, usage and product attributes, It also helped to confirm that our planned creative approach would be believable.

Target Market: California

Target Audience
El Pollo Loco’s target audience for this campaign consisted of Hispanic Adults between 18 and 49 years old. They are fast food users and tend to frequent fast food chains 8-12 times per month. They are Spanish-dominant and/or Spanish-preferred. The majority are married and eight in ten have children in the household. These families are very traditional and, for the most part, tend to eat at home. This is due to Hispanic families’ affinity for home cooked traditional meals. These are people who maintain the culture of the "old" country, yet are also acculturating to America. And, because they are dual-earner households, the concept of affordable home meal replacement is becoming more and more attractive to them. EL POLLO LOCO is a perfect fit for this consumer because it offers chicken marinated and flame-broiled in a traditional Mexican manner. The chain of over 200 restaurants was, in fact, founded by a Mexican immigrant in 1980 and was acquired by Denny’s Inc. in 1983. Both EL POLLO LOCO and Denny’s were ultimately sold to Advantica several years later.

Campaign Objectives
The objective was to recapture those consumers who had left EL POLLO LOCO, not necessarily because they stopped liking the product, but because EL POLLO LOCO had not given them a motivating reason to stop by, vis-à-vis the competition. Bottom line; the campaign had to make the target crave the chicken again, reverse the sales declines and place EL POLLO LOCO back on a growth track. More specifically, EL POLLO LOCO had to show increased Hispanic volume results.

Marketing Strategy
EL POLLO LOCO’s new marketing strategy was to focus on the chicken; its core product and strength, and to remind people of its great taste. The campaign had to stimulate trial and repeat usage. We knew from focus groups that when we talked about the EL POLLO LOCO experience, it triggered all sorts of sensory reactions; consumers could imagine the taste, the smell, and even the sound of the chicken on the grill. They could even imagine the steam rising from the freshly flame-broiled chicken.

Communication Strategy
Knowing how consumers reacted to the chicken, even when only talking about it, compelled us to find a way to impart the necessary stimuli through the campaign in order to create the same reaction when watching or hearing the commercials at home. This strategy was meant to be very sensory-driven and one which would speak to and pull on consumer’s "stomach strings." The new positioning read: El Pollo Loco stimulates my senses because only they marinate and flame-broil their chicken to mouthwatering perfection.

Media Strategy
Media was strategically planned and purchased to generate immediate awareness and support five (5) key promotions for the 1999 marketing calendar. Media was planned and bought to coincide with time periods leading into lunch and dinner meal times. A combination of television :30’s and :15’s were utilized to increase media weight levels and maximize the number of on-air weeks. Radio was used to drive the campaign’s frequency especially during afternoon drive time. Additionally, the focus was placed on programming that delivered high reach versus frequency, and careful spot placement was considered when placing media schedules. Leveraged merchandising was a key element to this campaign in which we negotiated billboard sponsorships, upgrades, bonus spots, off-site event participation, on-air promotions and product integration. Media flight weeks were planned to start at the beginning of each module and then stair-stepped to help maximize number of on-air weeks to provide continuity and to support all key modules.

Creative Approach
The creative approach was to "romance" the chicken visually on camera and verbally on radio. The idea was to leverage the possible imagery through sight and sound. The chicken was romanced by playing on double meanings in well-known, romantic Spanish-language ballads. We made them sing to the chicken about "not being able to live without you," about "being unforgettable" and about "being the only important one. "

Evidence Of Results
The repositioning and resulting creative strategy and approach resulted in very strong Hispanic sales volume increases. Overall, during a thirty-six-week period vs. YAG, EL POLLO LOCO has seen a Hispanic volume increase of 7.2%. This is 250% above EL POLLO LOCO’s 2% target increase YTD. Further, weekly Hispanic sales volume increases have been as high as 10.1% for EL POLLO LOCO, as was the case during the eight-week Barbecue Chicken promotion -- not typically a traditional flavoring for chicken among Hispanics. The campaign was measured through EL POLLO LOCO’s proprietary sales tracking system.








© 2002 Isabel Valdés - To contact the author, email: or call (650) 322-1922
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