Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Taco Bell: Marketing Genius and Taco Extraordinaire

I usually have my two cents to throw in when it comes to what companies are doing . But recently Taco Bell has caught my attention and I’m amazed at how they’ve positively changed their brand image over the years. They don’t have a “special sauce” that they advertise, but they certainly have a “special sauce” when it comes to their marketing.

Taco Bell has had a few rough patches throughout the years, there’s no denying that. But instead of quietly disappearing into the background they’ve come back stronger and smarter than ever. How exactly? There are three points that I think need to be highlighted:

They Know Who They Are

Being genuine and true to who you are as a person gets you more friends, right? Same idea applies to brands. Taco Bell is a Mexican quick-serve restaurant, not a three star Michelin-rated restaurant, and they’ve accepted that. While other restaurants may downplay the fact they offer a drive-thru, Taco Bell proudly advertises it and it’s a rare sight if that line isn’t longer than the actual line inside.

Their food may seem basic and unrefined, but sometimes that’s exactly what you’re hungry for. For every upscale menu item they offer they have several good old standbys like: tacos, nachos, burritos, and quesadillas. They haven’t forgotten the staples that made them famous in the first place.

They Know Who Their Target Market Is

Other restaurants may have thought that only elementary and middle school-aged people ate Doritos. But not Taco Bell. They know that you’re never too old to enjoy this snack food and if they can recreate it and make it a part of the main course of the meal, even better!

They seem to be aware that their target market is those of us between 18-34 years old who know that eating healthy is important from time to time but we also enjoy having a taco or two… or three (or five or six, this is a judgement-free zone). Their ads further drive home this point by featuring this age group and demographic to create a feeling of belonging and that you’re in the “in crowd” if you know about their latest menu offerings.

Check out one of their latest ads by clicking here!

Did you catch the fact that the actor was using Instagram in this ad too? This app isn’t being using by grandmothers, but high school, college, thirty-year-olds? They’re using the popular app every chance they get. Taco Bell knows who their customer is and what they enjoy doing in their spare time– and yes, sometimes it includes taking pictures of food and putting #foodporn in the comment section for all your followers to see (we’re still in a judgement-free zone).

They’ve Got Social Media Figured Out

Some brands just beg to have their pages liked but not checked to “Show in News Feed” on my Facebook account. It could be that they post way too often, their postings are uninteresting or boring, or a horrible combination of the two. Taco Bell though has survived and still has a presence on my news feed when I log in. Why? Here’s a few of the postings they’ve made:

Their postings aren’t revolutionary or anything, just down to earth and nine out of ten times I chuckle when I read them.

Their Twitter feed shows that as a company you can promote yourself and people won’t unfollow you:

If you’ve ever read a blog or article about social media etiquette, then you’re probably aware of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your tweets should go to building your community and 20% is for promoting your brand. Taco Bell either isn’t aware of this rule, or they’ve sarcastically avoided following it. Whatever their reason, their tweets gets a ton of responses and attention!

When people are on these social sites, they’re using them to connect with people, whether they’re friends, family, that ex from high school, whatever. People want to interact with people, not an emotionless entity. Don’t try to be your fan’s best friend, just be genuine and down to earth.

Taco Bell is by no means a perfect company, but they do seem to have a lot of things figured out when it comes to understanding their customers. They know who they are as a company, who their target market is and most importantly, where to go to talk to their customers. Not every brand should hop on board and start making tacos (well, you could and I’d be okay with that), but every company can certainly use some of their “special marketing sauce.”

Have you noticed the shift in Taco Bell’s marketing? What do you love about what Taco Bell is doing? Favorite menu item from them? Sound off below!

Image Credit to quinn.anya.

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Jeff Porretto

    It takes just about all my strength to not get taco bell everyday. I used to live directly across the street from one. I could see the sign from pretty much anywhere in my house. It might have been the greatest time in my life now that I think about it. I know none of this has to do with your post, but I don’t need any of their advertising, I’m already hooked! =]

    • Amy Swanson

      I can’t imagine living across the street from one, that would be the ultimate test of willpower!

  2. Eric

    Without spoiling too much of it, I recently had a “Cantina Bell Bowl” on one of my QLP lunch breaks, and I’ve got to say: the biggest problem any company could have, especially in fast food, would be the loss of identity. Glad to see they’ve proudly reclaimed their pride in serving inexpensive food through a drive-thru, into the late hours of the night. No shame in it, and heck, guarantee you a majority of their business filters in around the “Fourth Meal” hours of the late night/early morning.

    Turns out they’re expanding upon the Cantina Bell menu (who knows why), so, this comment is also going to serve as a little shameless self-promotion as that’ll be the topic of my next blog (no worries, will definitely include a link back to this one!). 🙂

    Fun post, Amy!

    • Amy Swanson

      I love that they don’t come out and say, “hey, we’ve got good, cheap food that tastes amazing at midnight!” But…. that’s what comes to mind when I see their ads.

      Can’t wait to check out your blog post about their new Cantina Bell menu. I haven’t tried anything from it, so I look forward to reading your thoughts on it 🙂

  3. Rachel

    I never realized how fun Taco Bell’s social media feeds are! I may have to follow them now — although that could be dangerous for my waistline, haha. It’s cool to see that they’re embracing their brand identity, though. Nice post, Amy!

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks so much for the comment, Rachel! I love coming across brands that aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it come to social media. They’re just having a good time and if people like their status about tacos, then it’s a bonus!

  4. Mikey

    I have to agree, …more companies SHOULD be making tacos! I kid, I kid. I have to admit, I had never really paid much attention to Taco Bell’s marketing, at least not since they stopped using the little dog in their ads, so I didn’t really notice the shift in their marketing strategy. But, it definitely seems to be working, considering the success that they’ve been having. And now I can appreciate Taco Bell not just as a purveyor of tasty food, but as a company that is competent at promoting its products and reaching its audience. Good post and a fun read!

    • Amy Swanson

      I’m so glad you liked the post! For some reason it took me longer to write than I thought, just couldn’t get the right wording and thoughts portrayed.

      I’m not sure why they’ve shifted their marketing, but I think they’ve found a winner with their latest campaign 🙂

  5. Jenna Markowski

    It’s taking everything in me to not just comment, “I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL!” and just leave it at that. We all know that I love Taco Bell, and one of the reasons is because of how well they market their brand. I follow Taco Bell on Twitter and on Facebook, and their posts always crack me up!

    They also recently partnered with Andrew W.K. (a.k.a the king of party), and honestly I’m surprised it took them this long. It seems like a match made in heaven. As you stated, it’s good that they’ve completely embraced their brand and aren’t attempting to trick anyone into believing they’re something they’re not. YAY TACO BELL!

    • Amy Swanson

      Hahaha, I thought about ending the post with an entire paragraph of “I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL!” but figured that may be just a bit much 😉

      I’m with you and being surprised it took them as long as it did to partner up with Andrew W.K. They’ve got the cool rocker, late night partying thing going on that totally plays into their target market.

      YAY TACO BELL indeed!

      • Eric

        Well, I don’t have a shameful bone in my body, so with that said: I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL! I LOVE TACO BELL!


        …someone had to say it. Rules is rules. 🙂

  6. Sarmista Aun

    Hi Amy,
    I completely agree with you, the strategies maintained by Taco Bell are powerful enough to promote their brand image. Its really nice. Thanks for sharing such a interesting post.

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks for the comment, Sarmista! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  7. Mandy Kilinskis

    I love that Taco Bell has dropped the dog and has instead just opted to be themselves in ads and on social media. It feels about as authentic as a brand can get online.

    Man, I love Taco Bell. And I love their Doritos Locos Tacos. They don’t pretend to be something they aren’t, and that’s awesome. 😀

  8. TB Dunn

    Nice little ad. Listen. Taco Bell makes money because their food is cheap. End of story (or ad).

  9. Kei Asakura

    I am currently reading this post while eating late night Taco Bell. But anyways very interesting post! I think it is very impressive how Taco Bell stays true to what its food and brand represents. I’m currently a student majoring in PR, and learn most of our classes we just learn about all these companies who fail to do that, so it is truly refreshing to hear a success story.

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