Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who's "Sorry" Now? Taco Bell Claims Victory After Agressive PR in Taco Filling Lawsuit.

     Your company is hit with a scandalous accusation.  The case makes national headlines.  Consumers assume your product is "tainted".  And in the end, there's nothing to the story.  All that bad publicity had to have an impact.  And you can't put the genie back in the bottle-   Who's going to pay?

     That's apparently the scenario that Taco Bell is dealing with right now.  As SteveBauerMedia reported last January the fast food giant was sued for allegedly using less than 50% beef in its Taco filling. Back then SBM advised:

     "In a case like this Taco Bell needs to do more than issue a statement on its web site, threaten legal action, and hunker down to see if it will all blow over." stevebauermedia 1/11 

     Apparently Taco Bell took SBM's advice because the company came out swinging- with full page ads in major newspapers.  CEO Greg Creed angrily denounced the lawsuit- stating that Taco Bell's tacos contain 88% beef and 12% spices and other ingredients.  TB vowed to fight.  Today, the original lawsuit was suddenly dropped.  According to the Associated Press, the law firm Beasley Allen, based in Montgomery, Alabama, says it dropped the lawsuit because Taco Bell changed its marketing and product disclosure information.  Taco Bell says it did no such thing.  Whatever.  The big question for Taco Bell now- how does the company rescue its reputation?

   You'd think in a case like this that it's difficult if not impossible to repair all the damage.  But Taco Bell is doing a great job of crisis management.  Back to major newspapers today, TB placed full page ads targeting that law firm in Alabama.  The ads ask, quote, 

     "Would it kill you to say you're sorry?... As for the lawyers who brought this suit: You got it wrong, and you're probably feeling pretty bad right about now. But you know what always helps? Saying to everyone, 'I'm sorry.' C'mon, you can do it!"

See Taco Bell's complete press release here: 

    In today's ads Taco Bell crows the company is making "no changes to our products or changes to our advertising."  The best defense is a good offense.  And we think Taco Bell is in a good position to turn lemons into lemonade- or in this case ground beef into filet mignon.  What next?  Should Taco Bell file a defamation lawsuit?  That would keep the issue in the public eye- giving TB more opportunities to remind the public that it sells a quality product.  Quality is a relative term since we are talking about fast food...  Taco Bell needs to stay aggressive- because this could be a golden opportunity to re-energize the brand.  We checked TB's website and discovered this YouTube statement from TB's CEO:  

     He's essentially reading the newspaper ad.  We think he should be a lot more active- maybe eating a taco while standing in court (of public opinion).

     We found the same press release and YouTube video on Taco Bell's Facebook page.  We should note that Taco Bell's Facebook page has a 6,198,614 "likes".  By comparison, industry leader McDonald's has 7,848,664.  Burger King has a less-than-whopping 1,039,052, and Wendy's has less than a million.

     Over at Twitter Taco Bell is running with this hashtag #Victoryfortruth!  And it looks like a lot of people are retweeting the link to that YouTube video.

     We sent an e-mail to Taco Bell's media relations department asking what else the company is planning.  But we haven't heard back yet.  I hope they'll take our advice and come up with an aggressive -and clever- campaign that not only focuses on the "beef" but promotes Taco Bell in an engaging way.  It's gotta be better than that YouTube thing.  Gotta run- it's already after lunchtime and I suddenly have a craving for one of those crunchy gordita things.

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