Thanks for the Free Taco – Five Things Taco Bell Did Right

Taco Bell

Big companies with deep pockets are notorious targets for lawsuits. So when the news broke surrounding the truth in advertising of Taco Bell’s ground beef mixture, I wasn’t quick to make assumptions. Yet, nor was I surprised to learn that said kibble was a mix of beef and other things. In response to the crisis, did Taco Bell bring it? I, for one, think so. We welcome your opinions, too.

Five Things Taco Bell Did Right

1. Delivered a rapid response – The company took immediate steps to address the allegations. Taco Bell was able to quickly realize that anything other than a direct and swift response would have appeared dodgy and run the risk of lending credence to the claims. This is not to say it’s not appropriate to take pause and assess your crisis. But remember the operative words are “pause” – then take action.

2. Harnessed key resources – If you’re a brand with big financial resources, there is no better time to call in the big communications guns then during a crisis. Taco Bell used their deep pockets to produce and run full page ads in major daily newspapers, launch a YouTube video and an online campaign on Google, Yahoo, video and other search engines and social media networks. Even without beefy finances, you should still have a go-to list of resources you can tap when in crisis – whether it’s an emergency fund, industry experts, colleagues and/or clients.


3. Disclosed details – The touchstone of the company’s ad campaign was “setting the record straight,” starting with an attention-getting, tongue-in-cheek headline, Thank You for Suing Us. The ad copy aimed to answer the questions on everyone’s minds, starting with, WHERE’S THE BEEF? By sharing the information that everyone wanted to know, Taco Bell succeeded in getting the public’s attention and, for many, erasing any doubts over the company’s integrity.


4. Avoided spin – As communications professionals, we have a keen awareness of the spin cycle. Amidst digital media and social networks, current generations are quicker to question corporate propaganda – they actually expect transparency. Taco Bell didn’t try to dress up, distract from or skirt the issue. They put their middle-aged, native Australian CEO on video to “set the record straight.” So when you’re faced with a crisis, big or small, think of this example as you consider the merits of authenticity.


5. Showed R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Although I’m not a long-time Taco Bell watcher, I can see from their website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page that the company is proficient and prolific in their public communiqués. The myriad exchanges on these social networks capture a balance of brand and product promotions and one-on-one discourse with customers and fans. Providing a link to a Spanish language translation of the website is another proof point for thoughtful communications. And, just today, the company put icing on the cake (ahem, or toppings on the taco) by thanking fans for their support with a goal of rewarding 10 million free tacos to its Facebook community. Lessons learned here? This should be an easy one – after all, the customer is – unequivocally – king.