Conventional wisdom suggests the best way to get people to notice a new product and adopt it is through giving them lots of new information and interacting frequently. The marketing gurus over at Taco Bell through this wisdom to the wind and decided to think outside the bun. Back in October of 2014, Taco Bell created a risky and counterintuitive launch plan for its newest app. The app was designed around mobile ordering and payment. The increased ability to handle mobile traffic is something that Taco Bell believes will greatly enhance order efficiency and develop their drive-thru business, which accounts for the majority of their sales. The move to this technology more than likely comes off the success of other mobile ordering platforms such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet which has take large strides this past year. Because of this, Taco Bell knew it has to take an aggressive approach to launching its app and getting its large customer base on board.
In order to gain maximum traction for their new app Taco Bell decided to black out their social media channel, rather than flood them. Taco Bell’s social media presence is one of the strongest in the fast food industry with their Facebook garnering over 10 million likes alone. Rather than traditional media approaches, Taco Bell decided to use this significant social media following to spread the word and create a viral conversation about their app. On October 28th, 2014 Taco Bell shut down their Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Facebook pages and replaced it with messages that explained that Taco Bell is no longer on those sites but #OnlyInTheApp.
These posts provided only a link to download the new app and the suggestion of sharing their hashtag. Within an hour the hashtag had been spread over 400 times and at the end of the day the hashtag was used more than 5,000 times and Taco Bell was tweeted t more than 27,000 times, for a potential reach of 5.9 million. Not only did this simplistic and direct marketing approach lead to recognition, but it also lead to action. A lot of action. The app rose from a rank of 1,379th overall in the US at 2am Pacific time to the 24th most popular app by 1pm Pacific Time. A total time of only 11 hours. This push forced Taco Bell’s app above Google Maps, Spotify, and Twitter.
The success of Taco Bell’s app launch comes primarily from platform integration and pushing the brand across all fronts rather than just on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. The consistency and messaging across all social media sites created great momentum for the campaign and integrated audiences and participation. There can also be a great deal said about how Taco Bell interacted with their platforms and technology. Instead of actually deleting all its history and followers, Taco Bell went outside of the box and set their accounts to private while creating duplicate accounts that showed the blank messages. This allowed Taco Bell to come back online the next day with all of its network and audience intact, while allowing them to obtain the shock value they were searching for in this campaign.
This shock value leads me to what I believe is the main takeaway from this situation, and that is the creativity in simplicity. The campaign didn’t ask users to take any crazy or complicated action, which can sometimes feel like brands are abusing their dedicated consumer base, but instead got them curious about what was going on. They created a canvassed tagline and message that was easy to share and focused solely on one goal, app adoption. Taco Bell was no longer on its social media and digital platforms: it was only on the app. This individual goal tied nicely to the new marketing mantra of pushing limits and challenging customers to try new products and new ways of interacting with the brand. All of this surely would not be possible without Taco Bell extensively understanding how their consumers interact on social media and how they interact with the brand.