Stay ahead – join The Drum+

Taco Bell takes ownership of taco emoji in global Taco Day stunt

Taco Bell is incentivizing consumers everywhere to taste its tacos with two new brand marketing initiatives: a global promotion offering free tacos to consumers in 23 markets around the world, and a US-only National Taco Day partnership with digital communications platform Discord.

Looking to make Taco Bell synonymous with tacos across the globe, the fast food giant today kicked off two new major marketing initiatives. The first aims to grow global awareness by taking ownership of the taco emoji that lives on all of our phones. The second taps into Discord’s highly active US user base in a taco-distributing day of fun.

With nearly four billion smartphone users worldwide, many consumers have taco emojis at their fingertips, but have never tried a taco themselves. The fast food chain wants to change that. Taco Bell teamed with creative agency Deutsch LA to develop a promotion to turn taco emojis into IRL tacos for hungry consumers. Translated into five different languages and rolling out to 23 different markets across the globe, the new “Taco IRL” campaign invites smartphone users to scan a QR code or enter a short URL into their devices, which then automatically launches users’ messaging apps and populates the text field with a taco emoji. All that’s left to do is hit “send” — participants then receive an offer that can be cashed in for a free in-store taco, today, October 4.

But the “Taco IRL” campaign is bigger than emojis. With out-of-home elements, influencer marketing and both organic and paid social, it’s an attempt to expand brand awareness around the world and drive sales in markets where Taco Bell is less popular than it is the US, its primary market.

“The goal is to make the Taco Bell taco famous around the world. When someone sees a half moon, an arch in a bridge or our favorite emoji — the taco emoji — we want them to immediately think of Taco Bell,” says Taylor Montgomery, the company’s head of international marketing. This objective builds on the brand’s larger “I See a Taco” initiative, which was launched earlier this year with the “Taco Moon” campaign.

“Our key challenge outside the US is getting the taco to have the same level of cool as it has in the US,” Montgomery continues. “To do that, we have to get the Taco Bell taco in people’s hands so they can experience the magic and fall in love with the brand. This specific campaign is so fun, because we are turning the awareness challenge we have on its head — whether you realize it or not, everyone has a taco on their phone, so Taco Bell is going to turn it into a real taco for consumers to try.”

Yum Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company, has seen impressive growth both domestically and internationally this year. The company’s latest earnings report indicates that, after taking a pandemic-induced blow last year, net sales rose 18% in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter last year — and that global same-store sales jumped 9% during the quarter. Brand marketing efforts like the “Taco IRL” campaign aim to help Yum Brands’ properties increase their footprint in international markets and generate more global revenue.

Dabbling with Discord

To complement the global campaign, Taco Bell is also launching a US-only promotion in partnership with chat room and communications platform Discord, which has over 150 million monthly active users. Taco Bell has launched its own Discord server, a place where fans are invited to congregate in celebration of National Taco Day. Within the server, users are invited to participate in a Taco Trivia event — the winner, dubbed the “TacoChampion,” will be spotlighted within the server and will receive free tacos as a reward. Taco Bell will also drop its Taco Gifters — digital gift cards redeemable for one taco — in other Discord channels and hide various special offers across social media and on Reddit (where the brand has a loyal following and has even partnered with users to create brand marketing materials).

Taco Bell and the creatives and strategists at Deutsch LA felt that Discord was the right place to host the US campaign. “National Taco Day is the biggest holiday for Taco Bell, and we want to celebrate their communities in a way that brings them together and gives them a space to connect over their shared love for Taco Bell in an authentic way,” says Deutsch LA associate strategy director Lauren Murphy. “Discord was the perfect way to do this because it’s a platform designed specifically for people to talk, hang out and stay close with their friends and communities.”

This year marks Taco Bell’s first foray into fully-integrated global marketing. With the rollout of the “I See a Taco” campaign earlier this year and the new international “IRL Taco” project debuting today, the fast food titan is taking definitive steps to positioning itself as a truly global brand.

“We always strive for our food to be globally consistent and locally relevant,” says Montgomery. “We realized we needed to take the same approach with our marketing and advertising. As we are building the brand around the world, we are focusing on a consistent campaign that makes the biggest part of our brand famous: the taco.”

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy