Hipster Branding: Taco Bell Woos Cool Kids to Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos


Murmurs were afoot early on the street and on the tweet, thanks to Taco Bell’s Facebook hint that fans should head to a pop-up store at New York City’s Ariston Flowers in the Chelsea neighborhood, setting the Twitterverse aflutter.

The product: new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos. The password: ask for the blue bouquet.

But just when things began to heat up at the flower shop, Taco Bell also was letting the whole country know about what likely will be its biggest new-product announcement of 2013. The Yum! Brands chain is hoping to tap into the same fervor for Cool Ranch as it did a year ago for the original Nacho Cheese flavored Doritos Locos Tacos, which kicked off a frenzy new Doritos-based-shell franchise.

And if the blue nail polish on today’s Facebook announcement wasn’t hint enough, Taco Bell is wooing the cool kids to Cool Ranch by appealing to hipsters — judging by its Super Bowl commercial, as a mindset and not necessarily just millennials.[more]

In addition to the NYC “secret” pop-up news on Facebook, the new menu item was announced with a press release that references the last album (“This Is Happening”) of hipster band LCD Soundsystem. And the announcement on its Twitter feed featured not only a hashtag but an oh-so-trendy Vine video:

The brand’s Twitter page was reskinned to feature a moody, album cover-like image, retweeting an s-bomb and MTV.

“You’ll have to be hiding under a rock to not know about Cool Ranch” after what Taco Bell has launched to notify the public about its follow-up flavor, Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell, told USA Today.

Taco Bell planned to get word of the March 7 rollout of Cool Ranch to the brand’s 10 million Facebook fans today. And as the launch date nears, Taco Bell fans will witness the chain’s biggest marketing campaign ever, even bigger than the one that greeted the rollout of Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos a year ago.

Back then, throwing sharp but relatively benign elbows with the rest of the competition teeming in a sluggish QSR market, Taco Bell marketers had no idea what a huge hit licensing the Doritos name and flavor (from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division) would become, or how quickly.

Taking to the zesty flavor of the new shells even though they cost 30 to 40 cents more than a regular taco, Doritos Locos Tacos fans have bought more than 350 million of them in less than a year, making it Taco Bell’s most successful product and one of the biggest in fast-food history.

Taco Bell’s same-store sales jumped 8 percent last year largely on the strength of Locos Tacos, though the chain also has begun experimenting with other new menu items.

Doritos Locos Tacos are “as big a deal [for Taco Bell] as the Whopper is for Burger King or the Big Mac is for McDonald’s,” Ron Paul, president of restaurant consulting and research firm Technomic, told USA Today.

This time, Taco Bell is ready for the new business that Cool Ranch may bring. The only issue now is fans’ verdict on the flavor.

A Huffington Post reviewer, one of the first to taste, was upbeat: “The tang of the Cool Ranch flavor gave some nice spring and zip to the otherwise muddy taste of the beef and processed cheese inside the shell. The greater contrast between the shell and filling made it perhaps a hair more interesting than the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos.”

Judging by the reaction today via its Twitter hashtag, the chain could have another hit on its hands.