Taco Bell flexes its social muscles on YouTube

Taco Bell has created original scripted content for YouTube.

Just like that, Netflix and Amazon have a little more competition in scripted original video content – and from a perhaps unexpected source: Taco Bell.

That’s right: With the launch of a new YouTube series – and more to come – the notoriously social-savvy brand is staking its claim on what it calls its “last unconquered channel.”

The brand has nearly 10.5 million likes on Facebook, nearly 1 million followers on Instagram and nearly 1.8 million followers on Twitter. And, what’s more, its Snapchat lens for Cinco de Mayo this year was viewed more than 224 million times in 24 hours, reportedly setting a Snapchat record.

But it hasn't seen such stellar results on YouTube, where it has about 50,000 subscribers - that is, until now. Or at least that’s Taco Bell’s hope.

According to Jozlynn Rush, social and digital experience manager at Taco Bell, for the last few months the brand has been working on two new series of original episodic programming for YouTube – and it intends to now flex its social muscles in this channel, too.

“Taco Bell has a great presence on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and has done a good job of making a reputation on those channels, but YouTube is where we have yet to come out with regular, consistent content,” she said. “That’s why we consider it that last channel opportunity to nail down and be consistent.”

The first YouTube series, Taco Tales, is a “series about the crazy, unexpected things fans have done in pursuit of Taco Bell,” like taking senior photos at the fast food chain or coming up with Taco Bell wine pairings, the brand said.

“We see so many amazing stories from fans on social,” Rush added.

Taco Tales was developed with production company Madison + Vine and is what Rush called “Taco Bell storytelling at its finest.”

“We have so many different hilarious stories and pieces of content, we want to them bring to life through a series,” Rush said. “Taco Tales is inspired by fan stories and [it’s] our take on them. We’ve taken some creative liberties in [bringing them] to life…we had a lot of fun with this. It’s our first stab at scripted, original content. There’s nothing about pushing a product or marketing message. It’s a brand new message.”

The first video, Joy Ride, was released at 7:00 AM ET on December 8. A new Taco Tales episode will follow each Thursday for six weeks.

“We are really considering Taco Tales as season 1,” Rush said. “We’re thinking about it like a TV show and how we syndicate and get the word out because it is consistent programming for six weeks.”

The second series, the Taco Bell Clips Show, will premiere January 19.

Also inspired by fan content, Rush likened the Taco Bell Clips Show to a sketch comedy show featuring Taco Bell Social Content Creator and Community Manager Chris Crawford.

“He’s on the front lines in terms of seeing all this content and we wanted to create a show that showcased the content, but it also gives us the ability to…add commentary,” Rush said. “It’s really about highlighting amazing things for fans. We show it and talk about it. We have some of the most passionate fans out there…that’s what’s special about our brand.”

Taco Bell will also encourage fans to submit content for possible inclusion with the hashtag #TacoBellClipsShow.

Like Taco Tales, each new episode in the Taco Bell Clips Show will be released on Thursdays in the subsequent six-week period.

“We really made a conscious effort to keep [each video] short. We know attention spans on phones are short, so they’re hovering around 2 to 3 minutes,” Rush said. “[We want to] tell a good story and to obviously…communicate what we’re trying to communicate, but it’s short enough [that it isn’t] an hour-long documentary.”

What’s more, the brand is in the pre-production process around scripting two additional shows and will use the data from each upcoming episode to hone future content.

“When Taco Bell came to us looking to refresh their presence on YouTube, we saw a perfect opportunity to capture our audience through a fun, original series that they would choose to experience,” said James Shani, CEO of Madison + Vine. “Today’s consumers want humor with brains that is thought-provoking, entertaining and culturally informed. With Taco Tales, we’re in a unique position to be free to explore real stories from actual fans and having our filmmakers expand on them in ways that aren’t just limited to humor, but can be rooted in other qualities that embody the Live Más lifestyle, like adventure, exploration and pop culture.”

The move is part of an overall shift in social strategy for 2017.

According to Rush, Taco Bell’s social strategy to this point has been about being with friends and creating shareable content.

“We never want to be the intrusive brand shouting messages, so we were looking at ways to create content a friend would share and you actually want to share,” Rush said. “But moving into 2017, we’re evolving a bit in that we’re looking to become more of a connector – a brand that connects you to different things in culture [and] ideas in culture…and really just connecting to different stories and using each of our social channels to help us do that.”

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