Taco Bell's media blitz aimed at countering the bad publicity created by a lawsuit claiming the chain's taco filling doesn't contain enough beef to be advertised as beef seems to be paying off.
A week after the suit was filed in mid-January, the QSR responded with full-page ads in national newspapers that grabbed attention with the headline "Thank You for Suing Us," followed by the details on the makeup of its filling. These were combined with a social media campaign and a Facebook-based offer for a free crunchy beef taco to thank the chain's loyal customers.
But that campaign reached only about half of the U.S. population, so beginning this month, Taco Bell launched a $3 million television campaign on mainstream and Hispanic networks. Those spots feature real Taco Bell employees driving home the message that the taco filling is 88% USDA-approved beef and 12% water, seasonings and other "signature recipe" ingredients. The employees also suggest that consumers check out the full ingredients breakdown at TacoBell.com. The "Talk" campaign is also being run on radio, and has social media and online keyword buy elements.
So how's it going? The tide appears to be shifting back in the fast-food chain's favor, according to tracking data from YouGov's BrandIndex. The scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative online/social media feedback from positive feedback. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
Taco Bell's "buzz score" among adults (asking whether they've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, and if so, whether it was negative or positive) plummeted from 19.1 on Jan. 3 to -10.6 on Feb. 7. However, as of March 15, it's back up to 9.8.
The chain's "recommend" or brand loyalty score ("Would you recommend the brand to a friend?") has also rebounded significantly. That score dropped from 19.6 on Jan. 3 to 1.3 on Feb. 8, but was back up to 13.2 as of March 15.
Taco Bell's quality perception ("Is it high or low quality?") -- which wasn't so hot even before the lawsuit -- is also climbing back up toward its old levels. That score was at 4.8 on Jan. 3, -10.7 as of Feb. 16, and 2 as of March 15.
BrandIndex conducts online interviews with 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of more than 1.5 million. The margin of error is +/- 2%.