Taco Bell is defying the forces cutting into sales in the fast food sector by embracing a paradox: the company has found mass market success by acting more like an indie, cult brand.

“We are pushing and pulling constantly to get to that perfect balance,” said Serena Sheldon, director/consumer insights at the Irvine, California-based fast-food chain.

“It’s going to be big enough that we can do it on the mass scale, but also delight our cult-like super fans [who] will call us out if something doesn’t feel authentic to the brand.”

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Serena Sheldon, director/consumer insights, Taco Bell

Sheldon told delegates at The Market Research Event (TMRE) 2018 that this approach has meant a focus on innovation that challenges the status quo and stays true to an underdog spirit. Taco Bell’s Innovation Lab is thus “tasked with at least ten new-product innovations every year,” she said.