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Taco Bell Blacks Out Social Media
By: Jennifer Graber
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This past week Taco Bell experienced a blackout on its social media. Normally this sort of situation would strike fear and panic into the heart of a marketing team. Calls and emails would be frantically flying about the office. The information technology department would be quickly summoned. But none of that was the case for the Mexican fast-food chain.
Taco Bell intentionally created a social media blackout. The Yum Brands chain wanted to craft a dialogue and generate purposeful attention, and that is what it did. Taco Bell blacked out all of its social media sites and had but one singular post. The post simply promoted the hashtag #onlyintheapp. The lone post was designed to draw visitors to download Taco Bell’s brand-new mobile app.
The launch of Taco Bell’s mobile app is the next step for the brand’s move towards overhauling its technology and social media. One of the overall goals is to reach millennial consumers, as well as the tech savvy. Additionally, Taco Bell is aiming to change the way consumers experience its brand.  The mobile app allows users to pre-order and pay for Taco Bell food prior to arrival. The use of the app seems easy enough. Users sign on to the app and place their order. Users can then pay for their orders with credit cards or Taco Bell gift cards. Once customers arrive at their local Taco Bell, they need to check in with a cashier, either in store or via the drive thru. This is done to alert the employees to begin food preparation. And, voila, your order is ready.
Taco Bell spent two years developing and perfecting its mobile app. The fast-food chain took the time to work out any issues, as well as incorporate the mobile app into its point-of-sale technology. Incorporating mobile technology into current technologies is one of the challenges faced when developing these sorts of apps. The two technologies must converge somewhat seamlessly or else face the wrath of the unhappy customer. Because, as we know, there are only so many tech fails a customer can stomach.
The fast-food chain revealed that its newly launched app was number one this past week in Apple’s App Store (in the food and beverage category). Thus, Taco Bell seems to be experiencing some success with its newest venture. However, one has to wonder if the initial success is due in part to the novelty. If that is the case, will the excitement wear off and the success plateau? Or will the app downloads and success continue in an upward/steady trend?
Mobile ordering and payment apps seem to be all the rage right now, and the trend does not appear to be slowing in the near future as more and more brands are testing the waters. However, I find it odd that fast-food brands would find success in mobile apps that allow users to order ahead of time. Fast food is, as the name implies, fast. How much faster do we want things to go? Are we losing patience? Do we want to avoid any and all lines? Instant gratification much? Or are the apps more about the novelty and the digital appeal? Thoughts?

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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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