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Taco Bell’s partnership with Lil Nas X reflects ‘the zeitgeist of today’s investment landscape’

·Reporter, Booking Producer
·4 min read
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From entry level to executive, rapper Lil Nas X is returning to Taco Bell as the restaurant chain's chief impact officer.

On Monday, Taco Bell (YUM) announced the Grammy-award winning artist and former Taco Bell employee will return to the company in the newly created executive role. Just five years ago Lil Nas X worked as a cashier at an Atlanta Taco Bell – which he referenced in the clip for his recent single "Sun Goes Down."

In this role Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill, will collaborate with the brand to offer an "exclusive experience" around the upcoming release of his album "Montero," launch new menu innovations and help make the Taco Bell guest experience "even more impactful" by tapping into his perspective, Taco Bell said.

The move is just latest in a series of collaborations between restaurant chains and celebrities in an effort to draw new and younger customers. McDonald's (MCD) celebrity signature order campaign has been wildly successful with rapper Travis Scott, BTS, and now The Saweetie Meal, featuring the hip-hop artist's favorite menu items and "Saweetie ‘N Sour” sauce.

 Lil Nas X has been appointed the title of ‘Chief Impact Officer,’ a newly created role that will allow him to collaborate on the brand experience from the inside out. (Courtesy: Taco Bell)
Lil Nas X has been appointed the title of ‘Chief Impact Officer,’ a newly created role that will allow him to collaborate on the brand experience from the inside out. (Courtesy: Taco Bell)

"Lil Nas X knows the job, the experience and the culture Taco Bell creates for its fans, including its people," Mark King, CEO of Taco Bell, said in the company's release.

No doubt 22-year-old Lil Nas X's social media presence – with nearly 7 million Twitter followers and 19.6 million TikTok followers – is a huge asset for Taco Bell. He is also a leading voice in the LGBTQ+ community as an openly gay, black male artist and prominent member of Gen Z.

“This unique partnership will deliver on more than just marketing, allowing us to tap into the genius of Lil Nas X to inspire our team members and align with our commitment to unlocking opportunities for young people,” King said.

Creating the position of chief impact officer also jibes with the corporate world's growing trend of aligning with social issues as a way to connect to consumers – especially younger ones.

It reflects the "the zeitgeist of today's investment landscape, with a renewed emphasis on social responsibility, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion practices," Sean Dunlop, equity analyst at Morningstar, told Yahoo Finance.

Lil Nas X will also partner with the Taco Bell Foundation to award young creatives with funding from the Live Más Scholarship.

People walk by Taco Bell's first digital-only U.S. cantina location at Times Square in New York City, U.S., April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
People walk by Taco Bell's first digital-only U.S. cantina location at Times Square in New York City, U.S., April 14, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

There's a larger focus on social values across sectors. "Corporate structures are evolving to respond to the changing environmental, social and economic dynamics shaping the industry. Such business changes are of critical importance to the continued success of companies," Elena Philipova, director of ESG at financial data firm Refinitiv, told Yahoo Finance.

"Customers consistently rate brand authenticity as one of the factors they consider in purchase decisions," Dunlop said, adding that younger generations favor brands that reflect their social values.

'Profit, people and planet'

Earlier this year McDonald's also took a stand on social issues through its partnership with the Biden administration's We Can Do This campaign to help push the COVID-19 vaccine for Americans, joining other fast food giants like Krispy Kreme, McDonald's, Shake Shack (SHAK) and companies like United Airlines (UAL), Lyft (LYFT) and Uber (UBER).

In late 2020 the Golden Arches announced a further commitment to the communities it serves by appointing Katie Beirne Fallon, a former senior advisor and director of legislative affairs for President Obama. As its first "Chief Global Impact Officer" with oversight of government relations, sustainability and ESG strategy, McDonald's said the role is meant “to harness and direct the full strength of McDonald’s ongoing efforts to affect positive change around the world."

The direct financial impact on these kinds of hires are impossible to calculate, Dunlop said, "brand cachets are built around compelling value propositions, convenience, and affinity with customers; and social engagement appears to be growing in importance for values-oriented customers."

A man works on a McDonald's restaurant sign with a job listing for a custodian paying up to $15 an hour in Bucksport, Maine, on Monday, August 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
A man works on a McDonald's restaurant sign with a job listing for a custodian paying up to $15 an hour in Bucksport, Maine, on August 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

"Brands are increasingly asked to generate positive results not just for the bottom line, but for the triple bottom line—profit, people, and planet," Dunlop said.

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com.

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