PALM DESERT, CA: Taco Bell, the quick service restaurant chain, is tapping into the power of storytelling and brand purpose to build meaningful relationships with its target audience.

Marisa Thalberg, the company's Chief Marketing Officer, discussed this subject at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting 2016.

And she argued that media fragmentation and the rise of ad blockers are among the trends that suggest developing powerful narratives will be the most effective way for brands to engage consumers.

"I really do believe that it's only through the best storytelling that [brands] can successfully break through and forge that meaningful, immediate and long-lasting connection. It just creates a whole different imperative," she said. (For more, including further details about the brand's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Taco Bell reinvests in new marketing skills.)

"Brands are now legitimate publishers. But they're still advertisers. So we're actually both," she added.

For Taco Bell – which has always been popular with younger consumers – this storytelling, whether via traditional or digital media, can draw on the brand's underlying purpose for inspiration.

"We feel that this is not an opportunity to suddenly invent a purpose; it's an opportunity to make sure that people understand our purpose," said Thalberg.

The brand's DNA is anchored in the knowledge that "we're a little bit of a 'constructive-rebel' brand" – a notion letting Taco Bell play in the entertainment space as well as embrace cause-related efforts.

In the former case, Taco Bell was an early adopter of mobile messaging app Snapchat, and spearheaded a campaign to introduce a taco emoji.

More seriously, the company also offers a variety of scholarships for young adults through the Taco Bell Foundation – a program that itself can yield impactful stories for the brand.

"When we thought about who we are and what we're about, we decided to focus our energies into thinking about how to perpetuate this idea of investing in the aspirations of young people," said Thalberg.

Data sourced from Warc