Targeting Bad PR Head-On, and Solving a Beefy Dilemma

Taco Bell Taco Bell had two problems.

Customers were starting to get suspicious that the "beef" Taco Bell put in its tacos wasn't, strictly speaking, made of beef. And, this suspicion was, to some degree, correct.

It all started back in January, when a California resident named Amanda Obney filed a class action lawsuit against Taco Bell. There was no monetary claim in the suit, only a demand that Taco Bell cease calling their taco filling “seasoned beef” because its meat content was not high enough. With 6,500 restaurants, the chain had enough national visibility that Obney’s accusation quickly became a huge news story.

Instead of running from the problem, Taco Bell met it head on, producing a series of commercials to proudly proclaim that their "beef" was actually 88% beef, 12% "signature recipe." They even posted the recipe at tacobell.com - you want to know what's in our fake beef? Sure, here's an ingredient list.

The move showed exceptional knowledge of their product and their customer base. As an unapologetic Taco Bell fan myself, I can tell you that nobody goes there looking for Kobe beef or beluga caviar. For goodness sake, they legitimately have a burrito filled with spicy Fritos!    

By facing the issue rather than taking the deny-til-you-die approach, Taco Bell controlled the story: they were able to spin the truth in a positive way instead of backpedaling. Now, less than two months later, it's old news. Of more than 2,000 Taco Bell mentions on blogs in March, so far less than a quarter are negative in nature.

We can all learn a lesson from Taco Bell’s ninja-like marketing folks. They turned a negative story to their favor.

But now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get a grilled stuffed burrito.

With beef.    

Contributed by Jake Navarro. Follow him @JakeMNavarro

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, user: Stevendepolo. Full terms and conditions for image use.