The early pioneer for Mexican food in New Zealand, Mexicali Fresh,  faced heavy growth of competition in the category of Fast Casual Foods. After over 10 years in business, and during a strong growth phase, Mexicali Fresh wanted to make sure they are still the cool pioneer brand, like when they once started off.

So they asked us, and together, we looked through a new lens and identity. Over the last years, their purpose helped the business to realign the leadership team, introduce new business practices, selecting suppliers, as well as overhaul the brand and communication practices.

One of the key projects this year was #freespeech.

Standing up for your values, your beliefs and having a purpose. These are the traits that modern consumers demand from their brands.

But for a brand to effectively communicate its values it needs to be credible and authentic. A challenge when tapping into a territory not normally occupied by corporates, but humans. How can a brand be authentic? The values need to derive from the people living, breathing and owning the brand.

For the founders of Mexicali Fresh, who emigrated to New Zealand from the United States in 2005, these core values are clear. Diversity, free travel and women’s rights. Founder and CEO Cindy Buell is not only a mother and a grandmother but an activist, organizing and supporting groups such as the recent Women’s March.

Using the family’s core beliefs to activate the brand was the basis of our idea. The time was right; a push for right wing politics around the world meant that many people were craving a counter movement. For us, it was a chance to shows what Mexicali Fresh and people behind it stand for: a culture of inclusiveness and tolerance. We needed to start a protest.

#freespeech was born.

We picked International Women’s Day for the launch. In an overnight stunt, highly disruptive protest signs appeared in front of the inner city restaurants. The design, size, material, colour and raw, handwritten style were all a perfect reflection of what any protester around the world might hold up. Key messages were well thought out, standing for women in leadership, equality and a culture of inclusiveness. The hashtag #freespeech animated the audience to share their thoughts and opinions via social media.

We hit a nerve. Passersby started posing and taking photos in front of the signs, leading to an increase in engagement and reach of the stunt in the digital world.  This resulted in a dramatic upswing in social media engagement from existing followers and reached a previously unengaged audience. 

Team members throughout their 16 branches posed with the signs and shared their affection with their employer’s brand through their networks. The passion of the team, many of them originally from other countries showed that we had not only judged the target audience right, but the staff as well – the company’s people adopted the message as their own and were proud to share it.

What’s more, new partners and suppliers of brands with similar values contacted the business owners to consider collaborations, opening them up to a whole new network.

Articles in leading marketing and innovation magazines increased the reach furthermore. And, the whole month even resulted in immediate increase in sales with 15% year on year.

The activation was an epiphany for the leadership and wider team, as the brand image of Mexicali Fresh converted overnight. It was followed by a number of other, similarly themed projects including a video series celebrating diversity through their Mexican staff members. Mexicali Fresh is on the path to become a truly purpose driven brand.