When a lawsuit questioned Taco Bell's 'meat mixture' and allegations surfaced that the fast food giant's tacos contained a mere 35 percent of ground beef, the media had a field day.
Reports of the lawsuit popped up in top-tier media coverage and consumers skeptical of what could go into a 99-cent taco quickly took conversations online.
Tweets included, but were not limited to:
'Learning Taco Bell meat is not meat is like finding out cigarettes are addictive.'?
'So I guess wit Taco Bell revealin they beef is only 35% meat I has still upheld my New Year's resolution of eatin less meat??'?
'Just ate so much taco bell non-meat meat that I might die. Send my regards'?.
With the clock ticking and pressure mounting, Taco Bell wasted no time fighting back. The company took out print ads only a few days later in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and our very own Boston Globe, to name a few.
The ads boasted a bold 'Thank you for suing us'? headline and reiterated that Taco Bell uses 88 percent beef and 12 percent 'Secret Recipe.'? It then explained what the Secret Recipe entails ' including spices, water, and other seemingly trivial ingredients.
But that wasn't all ' a campaign to reach its Hispanic customers; a YouTube video (cross-promoted on Facebook, Twitter and www.tacobell.com site) featuring President Greg Creed speaking about the company's beef facts; an 'Of course we use real beef!'? microsite; and an aggressive online campaign on leading search engines and social media networks ' polished off the retort.
So did Taco Bell's snappy response work? Let me start by saying that Taco Bell's response is more public and forceful than most other fast food giants. McDonald's, for example, still has not proactively addressed its lawsuit against including children's toys in its Happy Meals. Instead, the Golden Archs powerhouse has issued a reactive statement.
By taking such an aggressive route, Taco Bell opened itself to risk. Such campaigning requires facts to be 100 percent foolproof. In other words, the company must be completely confident in the facts it presents to the public. However, with the appropriate amount of caution needed to fact-check, there is a high chance of reward, including positive publicity and a turnaround of negative brand perception.
Taco Bell's speedy and confident response gave the company more control over the downward-spiraling situation. In fact, the day following the response, negative talk on Twitter only slightly led positive and neutral. And now, the plaintiff's attorneys are being questioned on the results of their beef testing. Not too shabby, Taco Bell! Not too shabby.