Commentary

Taco Bell Diet: Use It Or Lose It?

These days, people are willing to go to great lengths to get people talking. They crash White House State dinners. They give their kids named like Apple, Banjo and Pilot Inspektor. They undergo 10 plastic surgeries in one day to alter their appearances. And those are just the celebrities! So why would brands be any different? In our oversaturated marketplace, companies know they need to really "shock and awe," advertising-style, to garner a degree of attention.

The problem is, every once in a while they go a little too far (read: Brittany Spears shaving her head) -- and get people talking a little too much. Case in point: Taco Bell's new "Drive-Thru Diet," in which a very slender, very attractive, bikini-clad customer claims that she lost 54 pounds by swapping her usual fast food fare for Taco Bell's new Fresco menu. Say what? You mean to tell me that Taco Bell, home of the Mexi-Melt, the Gordita, the Enchirito, is now "good for you," too? The outlandish claim was enough to make Jared from Subway -- and just about everyone in the world who saw the commercial -- do a double take.

Curiosities were piqued, all right: A recent Google search for "Taco Bell Diet" resulted in no fewer than 558,000 articles on the topic. Ay carumba! But it turned out that the Mexican fast-food company was taking a huge risk by subscribing to the old "all press is good press" mantra, and opening itself up to a huge amount of backlash.

Take these tweets, for example: "Lmao at #tacobell diet menu lol aha." Or, "who the (!@#$) goes to #tacobell for health food. Come on now, they're going way too far with that claim." And, "#TacoBell is now saying that you can lose weight being on their taco diet. I've truly seen everything now!"

In fact, Zeta Buzz, a company that mines blogs, message boards and social media postings to measure buzz about a subject, reported that "Taco Bell's buzz rating has dropped six points after launching the diet. While volume of posts increased 44%, the tone has become more negative." Taco Bell, we've got a problem.

Or do we? The fact that so many people, many of them ardent Taco Bell fans, took to the Internet to question the diet's validity is proof in itself that these individuals care passionately about the brand. In the depths of their beings, they probably harbored hope that the diet actually worked; I know if I were a Taco Bell lover, I'd want to believe that I could continue eating my favorite fast food and lose weight.

So, even though "Christine" (no last name) lost 54 pounds by limiting her daily intake to 1,250 calories daily (despite the fact that the average American eats 2,000 calories daily), the claim that she was able to do so while eating Taco Bell resonated with enough consumers to drive traffic to Taco Bell to try their Fresco offerings.

In the end, yes, Taco Bell did something provocative to get itself on the lips of consumers. But was it any worse than Heidi Montag's day of 10 plastic surgeries? My answer is no -- and besides, its result was a whole lot more appetizing.

Tags: commentary, qsr
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