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Taco Bell’s Doritos taco is here to stay

Taco Bell Canada announced on Monday that the Doritos Locos Taco – a taco housed in a shell made of Doritos – will become a full-time menu item in this country. The company launched a new ad, featuring a customer who was apparently willing to celebrate the announcement by getting a tattoo of a taco on his bicep.

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Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter@Susinsky.

Taco Bell Canada announced on Monday that the Doritos Locos Taco – a taco housed in a shell made of Doritos – will become a full-time menu item in this country. The company launched a new ad, featuring a customer who was apparently willing to celebrate the announcement by getting a tattoo of a taco on his bicep.

The company has used the extreme indulgence of this menu item to draw attention and secure itself some free marketing buzz; and it is not alone. KFC, which is owned by the same parent company, scored a massive amount of attention with the Double Down, a sandwich that substituted fried meat for bread. And Richmond, B.C.-based Boston Pizza last year introduced a concoction called a Pizzaburger, which wrapped a pepperoni pizza around a burger in place of a bun.

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These over-the-top foods are a marketing tool for brands competing for a piece of Canada's $48-billion food services industry. Even if customers don't buy the most outrageous menu items, they get people talking. And sometimes that's enough to put that brand at the top of customers' minds – right where it needs to be next time they are considering where to grab a bite.

"It's the most talked-about taco in the world," David Vivenes, chief marketing officer for Taco Bell and KFC in Canada, said of the Doritos Locos Tacos in an interview with the Globe last year. After a popular launch of the product in the U.S., the company brought it to Canada with a campaign featuring people who had asked for it to be made available here on social media. In the ad, those customers were served the tacos with their own complaints about missing out engraved on the shell.

It's not just talk. While awareness of the obesity crisis in North America is growing, and while consumers have arguably never been more health-conscious, there is a market for foods that represent an unnaturally hefty caloric download.

The Pizzaburger was such a hit for Boston Pizza, for example, that in September the chain also made that a permanent menu item. The decision was based on the fact that during the Pizzaburger's initial limited-time run, Boston Pizza saw a triple-digit increase in overall burger sales.

Now, another fast food chain is doubling down on its commitment to marketing the fun of gluttony.

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