CASSIES Silver: Taco Bell makes angry consumers eat their words

To launch its Doritos Locos Taco, the QSR literally fed fans their own tweets and posts.

Off to a Good Start
Best Matching of Message to Medium(s)

Situation Analysis: Taco Bell was struggling in Canada with negative year-over-year sales stretching back several years, ongoing store closures, outdated store assets, the lowest brand awareness in the QSR category, the lowest share of voice and a confused brand identity.

Then in 2012, Taco Bell had launched a highly successful new product in the U.S., the Doritos Locos Taco (DLT), that was not available in Canada. Taco Bell Canada’s Twitter and Facebook pages had filled with complaints about this absence from their stores. In response, Taco Bell decided to bring one million DLTs to Canada for a limited time only, on the back of which aggressive targets were set to grow same store sales by 7% and improve the sales mix by six to 10%.

Insight & Strategy: Small-scale social tests with fans proved they craved interaction with the brand, and when provided, they came back to re-engage again and again. Also, DLT test-market research out of the U.S. proved the product generated significant word-of-mouth in the target group. Hence, if frustrated DLT fans felt like Taco Bell had listened to their complaints, their re-engagement would become contagious. The DLT aggressors – young adults who expected to be heard – were funny, honest and straight up, just like the Taco Bell tone of voice. Their frustration, anger, humour and passion would be harnessed in a campaign to launch the DLT in Canada.

Execution: Launched in August 2013, “Feed the Fans” began with an online teaser campaign, followed by a product launch where the loudest critics were invited to a surprise event where they would be the first in Canada to try a DLT. But not just any DLT, they got a DLT featuring their own tweets and posts, laser-etched into the Doritos taco shell, their reactions being filmed. On the day the product arrived in restaurants, the “Eat Your Words” online video content was launched on YouTube and pushed to all Taco Bell social communities. While an adaptation of a DLT spot from the U.S. was used to generate mass awareness, a 15-second edit of the “Eat Your Words” video drove viewers to the longer format YouTube version. With the tacos in limited supply, a microsite with a live ticker to count down the remaining DLTs in the country was launched.

Results: The DLT launch resulted in same store sales growth of 10%, peaking at 16% sales growth in the first month of the campaign. Sales mix increased by 6% while the DLT Boxed Meal (combo) grew 6.4%, ahead of the average of 2% for combos, proving the item to be a strong up-sell tool. Momentum continued across 2014 with same store sales growth of 7.7% and an increase in sales mix of 2.4%. After several months of extremely successful DLT sales and conversation in Canada, Taco Bell decided that the product would become a permanent menu item, launching as part of the core menu mix in January of 2014.

Cause & Effect: The response to the original “Feed the Fans” content was huge, outperforming any previous Canadian Taco Bell promotion with 4.5 million Twitter impressions, a 21 to 23% online advertising click-through rate and a 33% lift in social engagements. Media budgets remained flat year-over-year while the product was sold at a $0.30 premium over the average beef taco. The number of stand-alone stores decreased in 2013.

Client: Yum! Restaurants International (Canada)
Marketing manager: Veronica Castillo
Marketing director: Adrianne Chow
Agency: Grip
AD: Julia Morra
CW: Trevor Gourley
Associate partners, creative: Ben Weinberg, Pat Andrews
Editor: Duane Vandermuelen
Agency producer: Liz Crofton
Associate director, creative content: Patrick Tomasso
Manager, business: Michael Leutner