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Taco Bell is an American fast food company that serves up Tex Mex cuisine, with humble origins from the 1950s, in the town of Downey, California.
In 2013, Taco Bell was named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year, in recognition of the brand’s successful social media campaigns and targeted millennial marketing that continued to drive sales.
Each year, Taco Bell serves up more than 2 billion tacos and more than a million burritos. Statistics by Gizmodo also show that the average customer comes back every 11 days for their next Tex Mex fix.
What sort of campaigns did Taco Bell use achieve such phenomenal statistics, and how do they continue to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive fast food industry?
1. Unique product innovations like the Doritos Locos Taco
Taco Bell maintains a strong commitment to product innovation.
CEO Greg Creed says that “its creations and evolutions are largely — if not wholly — driven by deep insights into customers’ wants and needs, as well as the realisation that food has moved from simply fuel for the body to a life experience.”
In 2012, Taco Bell teamed up with the highly popular Frito-Lay to provide customers with just that experience.
The Doritos Locos Tacos is described as a classic Taco Bell filling with the “same crunch, the same texture, the same seasoning on your fingers as a Doritos chip”, giving customers the best of both worlds from two highly nostalgic products.
Although the Doritos Locos Tacos was only launched in 2014, R&D teams from both brands had first come together in 2009.
Such successful product innovation was thus well-informed by years of market research, and product development.
Word-of-mouth tip: Innovate, innovate, innovate. Every new generation of consumers have different preferences and expectations. A successful product is thus created based on informed market research and diligent product innovation.
2. Launch of a health conscious product line
Taco Bell also recognised the global trend of a preference for more health-conscious options, and the need to target this demographic of consumers to expand its customer base.
As such, in summer 2012, Taco Bell launched the Cantina menu, which features higher quality ingredients and healthier options.
The Cantina menu was well-received amongst women and the elderly, two key demographics that the original Taco Bell menu did not particularly target.
Word-of-mouth tip: A focus on a healthier lifestyle and more health-conscious options is a trend that is here to stay. Keeping afloat of customers’ preferences for healthier options and adapting product offerings to cater to this demand helps a brand to stay relevant.
3. Effective social media campaign -- #TacoEmojiEngine
Back when emojis first launched, avid taco fans wanted a taco emoji and were adamant in pushing for one to be created. It simply didn’t make sense for a pizza and hamburger emoji to exist but not a taco one.
Taco Bell, being the eponymous taco company of course, decided to take the lead on this project, launching a change.org petition entitled “The Taco Emoji Needs To Happen”.
The petition was highly effective, garnering more than 25,000 signatures in less than three months. The Unicode Consortium approved the emoji and in October 2015, Apple launched the taco emoji in iOS 9.1.
To celebrate the success of this petition, Taco Bell made the # TacoEmojiEngine where people could tweet @TacoBell the taco emoji and any other emoji and receive a response of one of 600 unique taco inspired photos, gifs or sounds.
Rob Poetsch, Director, Public Affairs and Engagement at Taco Bell said in an interview that the goal of the campaign was simply to thank taco lovers everywhere for their support for the taco emoji, and to celebrate the love for tacos amongst the community.
The campaign was well-received, with thousands of Twitter users engaging with Taco Bell using the hashtag. The interaction continues on till today.
Word-of-mouth tip: Taco Bell’s creative campaign was a light-hearted approach towards celebrating the taco — the product at the core of Taco Bell’s entire brand focus. The hilarious images and gifs that were created for the campaign turned viral quickly, and easily spread amongst internet users via WOM.
4. Customer engagement via Snapchat
According to Salesforce, Snapchat is the second most used social media marketing channel behind Facebook, amongst 18 to 24-year-olds.
In a world where social media feeds are often highly curated and dramatically filtered, Snapchat offers an authenticity that customers can appreciate.
To generate hype for its new breakfast product launch, Taco Bell creatively took to Snapchat, offering previews of its new menu.
The social media team definitely puts a lot of thought and creative energy into generating content for its Snapchat story, with stories such as “Taco Bell Menu Hacks” being one key example.
Word-of-mouth tip: Snapchat has grown massively in popularity, taking over Instagram and Twitter as people’s preferred social media platforms to gain real-life insight into a person or a product story. Brands should leverage Snapchat’s brand of authenticity to create interesting content that can easily go viral and keeps customers constantly refreshing their feeds for more.
So how did Taco Bell achieve its popularity again?
- Constantly innovated with new products, combining fan favorites
- Took note of trends like health-conscious food and created a line to cater to that
- Made use of pop culture via the #TacoEmojiEngine
- Created 'authentic publicity' via Snapchat