- Taco Bell created an anime-style ad and digital comic tie-in inspired by the Japanese manga format to promote the return of Nacho Fries, according to details emailed to Marketing Dive.
- The brand's Live Más Productions unit has teased the limited-run menu item for years with campaigns that mimic Hollywood blockbusters, complete with over-the-top, star-studded trailers. This year, the chain is centering the narrative on an animated character named Rei, the leader of a "Fry Force" team of pilots who control giant humanoid robots in a battle against spice-loving monsters.
- A spot detailing Rei's quest to save her brother and safeguard Nacho Fries premieres July 23, a day after the offering hits stores nationwide again. Bringing back the popular menu item for the seventh time in four years, Taco Bell appears to be targeting a more niche fan community than in the past.
Taco Bell introduced Nacho Fries in 2018 and has hyped the frequent return of the limited-run menu item — the most successful product launch in company history — with ads that draw on Hollywood iconography and stars like James Marsden, Josh Duhamel and "Stranger Things" actor Joe Keery. The latest iteration of the concept switches gears to instead focus on manga and anime, with clear nods to the popular mecha and kaiju genres and franchises therein like Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Taco Bell this summer is also marketing a new Loaded Taco variant of Nacho Fries that features cheese sauce, sour cream and seasoned beef toppings.
A richer content play could resonate with fans who closely follow the brand's moves and have turned Nacho Fries into an eagerly anticipated, McRib-like cult favorite. The Mexican fast-food chain is rounding out the larger narrative of "Fry Force" with a digital tie-in comic that sets the stage for Nacho Fries' return and leads into an ad spot that will see main character Rei attempt to save her brother from nefarious giant monsters.
Other marketers have tried to capitalize on growing mainstream interest in manga and anime in the U.S. Taco Bell's sister brand KFC in 2019 released a dating video game where players could court a version of mascot Colonel Sanders drawn in the anime style. Procter & Gamble's SK-II skincare line last year released a branded animated series that depicted Olympic athletes, including Simone Biles, overcoming different forms of adversity in epic fantasy and sci-fi settings.
Manga sales in the U.S. have shot up during the pandemic, while streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are seeing traction for anime shows that are frequently adapted from the comic medium. Last December, Sony's Funimation moved to acquire anime streaming platform Crunchyroll for $1.175 billion, though the deal has since been met with antitrust scrutiny.