Things looked bad for awhile there for Taco Bell. In the 2000s, as the country came to understand Mexican food better and culinary exploration grew increasingly popular, moving away from eating Taco Bell became a sort of right of passage. Then, in 2006, an E.Coli outbreak that sickened more than 70 people hit the company hard. Later, there was a Samonella scare. The rise of Chipotle didn’t help matters either. Add in the fact that there’s a direct corollary between unemployment numbers in the 18-34 demographic and Taco Bell sales, and it’s easy to see why the end of the 2000s were tough.
Then the other shoe dropped: a lawsuit accusing Taco Bell of using 65% fillers in their meat. 90 days later, the suit was quietly withdrawn, but the fallout was severe and resulted in a 2% drop in sales.
Things were looking bleak. Until some yahoo decided to turn a Dorito into a Taco Shell back in 2012. It was the brand’s biggest launch ever and came with a huge media blitz (the president of the brand even did an AMA). The product was a major success and kickstarted a new era in the fast food wars. Brands started testing products left and right, experimenting constantly, and catering to social media audiences. Taco Bell tried massive crunchwraps and fried chicken shells. Some of these launches became permanent menu items, others were stunts, meant to remind the public, “We’re still here!” Some definitely didn’t work, others did.
The brand paired these offerings with clever marketing plays, like the “Steal A Game, Steal A Taco” promotion, and a savvy social media team: