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A Reddit tale: why Taco Bell collaborated with Redditors on Quesalupa return

Of all the cult foods in the world, Taco Bell’s Quesalupa is up there. Just take a look at Reddit and read what its many disciples have to say. One user even traveled 900 miles across the States to eat one. So it made sense that Taco Bell would turn to Reddit to shout about the taco’s return. Here’s how Redditors visualized one man’s epic quest...

“Four years ago, the Quesalupa was released and college me, bored for a summer, spent that summer at Taco Bell...” begins a curious post on Reddit by user ‘Tmanowen’, before descending into a legendary tale about the time he traveled 900 miles to get his hands on the cheesy taco after it was discontinued in his state.

“As I enjoyed my final Quesalupa, around 20 for the past 24 hours, I felt complete. My four-year journey had come to a close and I can finally move on with my life,” ended the post triumphantly. However, the quest was far from over, as Tmanowen was to become the center of Taco Bell’s latest campaign on the momentary return of his dearly beloved taco.

“Taco Bell has an active fan base on Reddit,” says Daniel Chen, creative director at Deutsch LA. “They can be very active in their opinions.” Just search ‘Taco Bell’ on Reddit, and you’ll uncover all the die-hard fans collectively sharing their adoration for the chain, with threads such as ‘Do you guys ever eat Taco Bell twice in once day’, ‘Taco Bell is a safe haven’ and ‘My girlfriend and I got matching Taco Bell tattoos. It’s safe to say we’re the biggest Taco Bell fans’.

“The Quesalupa was one of the items that fans were obsessed with, then it went away,” Chen explains on the cult taco, which is a combination of quesadilla and a chalupa. “Tmanowen’s Reddit post was in the brief as a proof point of how much people love it. And we were just blown away by his story. We had a couple of ideas that were brewing, but when we talked to him, his experience really did match up.”

Fertile ground for customer insight, Reddit communities offer an opportunity for marketers to capitalize on what’s trending. Particularly where there is a fan base such as Taco Bell’s.

And so the team firstly had Tmanowen recite his story in his own words, which was the audio used in the final edit. “You could hear the emotion in his voice as he was recounting. And the sheepish embellishment of how much he missed it. That he knew it was silly. That’s what we liked about the story, just how much joy it had. And animation was the natural route to go,” he explains. “Because the story is so epic and crazy, we needed to highlight how strange and wondrous it was.”

As the story began as a Reddit thread, the team wanted to do the tale justice by working exclusively with the Reddit community, which it knew has many talented people who post their animations and music. But he highlights how they had to approach Redditors with caution. “Reddit is a community that really thrives and prides itself on authenticity. They can smell a brand with ‘selly’ intentions from a mile away.”

There’s even a ‘/R/FELLOWKIDS’ subreddit that calls out brands coming in and pretending to be hip. It even has a clear set of rules to prohibit brands from infiltrating.

So the team at Deutsch posted a self-aware call to arms on Reddit, calling on users to bring the viral post to life. Proving fruitful, he shares how they had “tons of submissions, we couldn’t even choose them all, which is always a good sign”, recalling how they chose the collaborators.

“We tried to get people that had different looks from the reels. So there were some people who were more CG-focused, while some were more stop-motion animation. The composer herself did everything on her own. You just find that level of excellence on Reddit,” Chen details.

They then split Tmanowen’s story into 12 to 15 sections in total. “Then we got on a call and said does anyone have a vision for a specific section. And then they were able to take it and run with it,” he says. “It was split up evenly so each person had their own portion.”

What was important to the campaign was each Redditor was paid for their participation. “They’re not amateurs. Being on Reddit, there’s choosey beggars who ask for art without pay and exposure. We’re not going to do that, we’re gonna pay you. That’s just part of treating the people involved with respect,” Chen insists.

You can watch the animation in full below:

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