Taco Bell Pushing the Digital Experience

Being both a Southern California native and honorary Mexican-American, my infatuation for Mexican food goes beyond its authentic cuisine. However food preferences aside, my craze for Taco Bell is characterized by more than just a fast food pick me up. Regardless of your like/dislike for the Irvine, California based company, people can agree on one thing and that is that Taco Bell is killing the social media game. Based on the DigitalCoCo’s Restaurant Social Media Index, Taco Bell is currently ranked #1 while surpassing companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Dominos. However in such a highly digital utilized age where inevitably every company is turning to vamp their social media presence, how does Taco Bell manage to outdo their competitors?

Participates in active consumer engagement:

Something I’ve particularly noticed first hand, is how unconventionally engaging Taco Bell is with its consumers. I first began following them on Twitter after I noticed a friend of mine had received a personal and witty tweet back from Taco Bell itself. Taco Bell has a cleverness for engaging in real time, both with fans and other brands. They understand how to create a balance between both prearranged and spur-of-the-moment social media engagement that surpasses the marketing tactics of other companies.tacobell_sm_twitter

Taco Bell promotes authentic and creative content:

A large sector of Taco Bell’s social media team is comprised of millennials who understand how to optimally utilize various platforms in a witty manner. Taco Bell does a great job and repurposing user-submitted content and sharing this content on their own social media platforms. This further makes consumers feel valued and connected with the brand. Alongside their captions and tweets further personify the brand as a human being connecting with its fans rather than simply a fast food corporation.

Taking a Non-Traditional Approach:

Within the past couple of years, Taco Bell has stood out for its inventive and creative menu items. Between the Doritos Locos tacos, the quesarito, the Mexican pizza, and the biscuit taco, Taco Bell is always trying to find new ways to reinvent a non-traditional Mexican treat. They further integrate customer engagement by offering promotional quizzes and contests that ask consumers to respond to certain products. This allows the brand to take in both quantitative and qualitative analysis to figure out their best hits. Taco Bell’s website demonstrates their ingenuity as they have even created a tab categorized as “The Feed” which promotes Taco Bell 2.0. Taco Bell 2.0 plays off the fact that last year Taco Bell became the first US fast food chain with a mobile app that allowed pre-ordering and prepaying. Alongside Taco Bell is progressing its delivery service as well working on an online loyalty reward program that will involve gaming for points for customers.

Also have you heard there’s a taco emoji?

In lieu of recent iPhone iOS 9.1 updates, Taco Bell is capitalizing off the new taco emoji as they’ve created 600 unique gifs to celebrate the long awaited emoji. When people tweet at Taco Bell a picture of the taco emoji alongside another emoji, the brand will automatically send back a photo or gif combining both images. Try it! Also in addition to its Twitter campaign, the chain also released four colorful Doritos Locos Tacos holders that have feature the emoji in different ways.

Although numerous brands have put their own twist on social media engagement, Taco Bell has made a name for itself by pushing beyond the digital experience and surpassing their competitors.






  1. I love how you highlighted how Taco Bell not only engages with its fans/customers, but also with other brands. Creating a conversation with all players, not just your target market, makes for a holistic personality and, in the process, amuses your audience. Kind of like celeb drama. I found this article on amusing brands and, no surprise taco bell made the cut. Old spice did too :) http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33488/14-Funny-Brands-You-Can-t-Help-But-Follow-in-Social-Media.aspx

    I didn’t know about their emoji campaign, but that’s awesome! Really great example of capitalizing on a current event. Other brands could definitely take notes. I wonder if they are thinking of doing anything similar to domino’s pizza emoji ordering effort.

  2. Great analysis! I completely agree that Taco Bell is killing the social media game. When researching material for my presentation, I came across the Twitter dialogue between Taco Bell and Old Spice. It generated good publicity for both brands an created a clever and fresh image. Strategically, Taco Bell is great at promoting user-generated content. The brand can sit back and monitor the posts and pictures posted by avid fans of the restaurant. I looked at some of their old Twitter posts and they do a great job being relatable to the Millennial generation. They quote Mean Girls, interact with Drake Bell, and send shirts to fans on Twitter.

  3. Really interesting post! I had Taco Bell for the first time in my life last week (I know, lame). But my roommate is a die hard fan of Taco Bell. To be fair, the food was decent, but after reading your post I realized how much I knew about Taco Bell even though I had never step foot in a store before last week. Their social media strategy is definitely doing something right. Their conversation with Old Spice is really interesting. Its a really hard balance to maintain with being smart and witty and not sound arrogant or any number of mishaps that happened with so many other brands. Kudos to Taco Bell for being really good at this. Hopefully for one of the snack times someone can get Taco Bell to sponsor.

  4. ashleighpopera · ·

    I never thought about Taco Bell having such a strong social media presence, but like @nayyarp12 said, after reading this post (even though I’ve never had Taco Bell) I realized that I do know a good bit about them from their various social media campaigns. The points you highlight make it clear that they’re taking a really fun spin on online marketing. It’s great to see that they so readily interact with their consumers and reach out to them through various campaigns and social media platforms. Their tweets with the emojis especially seem like a really creative idea! It also shows that Taco Bell is on top of their social media game by capitalizing off the recent iOS 9.1 update.

  5. I really like your blog post! Its really interesting to see how brands differentiate themselves in social media, and create a huge follower base. I feel their relation with Doritos with the Doritos Locos Tacos has made both brands take advantage of the situation, in the physical world (sales) and in the digital world (followers). I also found really cool, that they are using the taco emoji launch as a way to advertise themselves, it is really clever because I feel a lot of people were waiting for this emoji for a long time. And the best part of this, is that Taco Bell has realize something that other brands have being struggle to understand: people are going to follow a brand that engages their customers in the conversation.
    Even though I don’t like Taco Bell, I have to admit their social media strategy is really good and it works for them!

  6. I really loved your post. Its been a long time since I last went to Taco Bell, but after reading your post I feel tempted more then ever to go. I haven’t been aware that Taco Bell was killing the social media game. After reading your post, I visited the company’s social media platforms and I agree that they are killing it indeed. After all, the world has become all about customer experience. Companies should start to understand customer needs, and be closer to them to cater to their changing preferences and demands. Its all about urgency these days. I love the taco emoji, and the creative items I had not known about earlier. Gamifying the experience will definitely help Taco Bell a lot. I really enjoyed reading this post, and look forward to going to a Taco Bell branch soon. One question I was wondering about was how well Taco Bell is doing financially. Are all these social media leadership efforts transferring into revenues and earnings? Great content, visualization and topic. Thanks again

  7. I think Yum Brand, just like a number of other American fast food giants is really feeling the pressure from how urbanites and millennials are shying away from large food corporations in favor of more locally sourced and healthier (albeit pricier) options. On Sunday, NYT Opinion ran a piece on exactly this: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/a-seismic-shift-in-how-people-eat.html

    The article sites research that says: “42 percent of millennial consumers, ages 20 to 37, don’t trust large food companies, compared with 18 percent of non-millennial consumers who feel that way.” Thus, staying witty and relevant in the digital space by large food companies is a way for them to make up lost ground to chains like (yes..) Sweetgreen. Taco Bell, as you mention, does this extremely well and their efforts transcend traditional social media as you show their web site and mobile apps offer many ways for customers to interact with the brand. I personally feel that among fast food chains, Taco Bell is the only one that people I know will still consider eating at while others such as McDonald’s, BK and Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s never even cross their minds anymore as viable places to get food. Perhaps it’s because they stand alone in a lot of ways as the only really quick fast food chain offering Mexican food, but an even more likely option is that their online presence has this effect.

    PS: As a fellow chicano from Southern California I really hope your “craze for Taco Bell” is an overstatement just for the sake this post..

  8. I have never and will never be a taco bell fan. In fact, I’ve never even tried it. However, I still follow them on Twitter (partly because you told me to and partly because they’re hilarious). I think that you make some really good points about their social media presence. They definitely do a good job of creating creative and witty content (a main reason why I continue to follow them). I also had no idea that they offered so many different types of products. Am I the only one who though their menu consisted of tacos, nachos and quesadillas? I guess that’s because I’ve never actually been to a Taco Bell. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose? And I’m also a huge advocate of the new taco emoji . I think Taco Bell is a great job of taking advantage of this opportunity to promote their brand. Other than this post making me hungry, nice job!

  9. Nice post. Taco Bell really does stuff well on Social Media. My favorite example was a year ago when they shut down their SM presence across various channels to launch the new mobile app. Thought that was a great forward step and a very bold move.

  10. @geraldckane I actually had a different employee at DigitasLBI come talk in my Marketing class and she had been very involved in the Taco Bell social media black out. I did not see that last year, but I thought it was a great way to direct all attention towards one specific network.

    This was a great blog post! I was not aware of the Taco Bell’s social media presence, but they do a great job putting out creative and personal content. I really enjoy when brands go back and forth in a joking matter, such as Old Spice and Taco Bell. And although I am not the biggest TB fan, I admit they produce some incredible innovative food specials. As we can see from the recent Starbucks news, social media can be a crucial contributor to a companies reputation. I think their social media presence really helps enhance Taco Bell’s reputation, especially after the problems they have had in the past with their food quality. Thanks for sharing this post!

  11. I actually considered writing a post about Taco Bell’s social media strategy in the past since they really do take a unique approach with it and make it the focus of their marketing efforts. I think Taco Bell, more than any other major fast food restaurant, truly recognizes who their core customers – young people who want a fun, tasty late night meal without worrying so much about health and nutrition. Through the the funny, youth-inspired, and creative brand personality they’ve established on social media, it’s clear that Taco Bell knows how to appeal to these customers. When I discussed the McDonald’s and Burger King “World Peace Day” brand war in one of my September blog posts, I looked into both of their social media accounts and realized just how bland and safe they were when it came to their social posts. They made no attempts to do anything that unique, and their posts were so general that they didn’t really have any clear target they were pursuing. Taco Bell, meanwhile, has taken somewhat of a risk by honing in on a specific subset of their younger customers through their social media strategy, but it definitely has set them apart from their competitors and given them a more fun, hip brand image than the other fast food restaurants out there. Social media users, especially those of us millennials, definitely place a high value on authenticity, and Taco Bell’s social content strikes us as authentic while the others have taken the more inauthentic approach of being safe, predictable, and mass market.

  12. I’m very impressed with Taco Bell. I usually don’t go to Taco Bells unfortunately because they close at 11 in my town (Wendy’s got me until 3 AM!), but I do love crunchwrap supreme. Taco Bell really seems to be taking the lead amongst fast food chains and I do love their wittiness. I’m surprised the largest of them all, McDonald’s, was a laggard in this area. That may be because their brand is one of the most recognizable in the world and they didn’t feel it was as necessary. I also love the fact that Taco Bell made special taco holders based on the emoji. That emoji took too long to develop. I wonder what the next big thing Taco Bell is going to do.

  13. Great post! They have definitely differentiated themselves with an active online presence, and engaging customers with their brand.

  14. I always enjoy reading that Old Spice/ Taco Bell interaction — I think it’s such a good representation of some of the safe fun brands can have to develop a personality that is not as available on different platforms. Nice coverage of Taco Bell’s strategy!

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