El Pollo Loco: 'Feel The Mexcellence'

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Regional fast food chain El Pollo Loco is aiming to be something more than excellent with its new marketing campaign.

Beginning this month, the Costa Mesa, Calif. company's "Feel the Mexcellence" campaign showcases the restaurant's passion for flavor, preparation and in-store experience. Television commercials in the campaign show off the chain's signature citrus-marinated grilled chicken and other handmade items.

"The big difference [between us and competitors] is we do so much by hand," Mark Hardison, the company's vice president of marketing, tells Marketing Daily. "We're getting in at 7 a.m. and marinating our chicken by hand. We're cooking food by hand. That's the biggest thing we're taking credit for and informing the marketplace of."

The marketing campaign is part of a top-to-bottom marketing overhaul that includes new signage and displays following the "Mexcellence" theme, as well as other touches like offering receipts with customized messages referencing a customer's order (e.g., "We hope you enjoy your taquitos. We sure enjoyed making them."

A commercial making its debut this month depicts the company's attempt at creating the world's largest hand-started fire. In June, the company brought together more than 50 of its employees from around the chain to operate a 25-foot bow drill (a device that moves a spindle back and forth, generating friction and an ember). Although the attempt didn't manage to set the record (flames were added to the commercial via CGI), the event was more about "bringing the brand together," Hardison says.

Along those same lines, the company has also introduced a Facebook game through which users can operate a virtual bow drill (using the left and right arrow keys to move the bow and spindle), and pass the flame on to their friends for the chance to receive food coupons. The company is also engaging in a Twitter experiment trying to get 50 people each to use the hashtags #right and #left to receive coupons.

"It puts fire making in the hands of the user," Hardison says. "It's a fun way to engage Facebook users and use Facebook the way it was intended, to interact with your friends."

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