Yo Quiero Taco Bell! Building Brand Love.

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I met my husband in college over 15 years ago. We have had our share of memories and romantic experiences, but the one place that takes me back is our special late-night spot across from campus: Taco Bell.

My husband, to this day, is obsessed with the cheesy gordita crunch and if you were to ask if he were to have a ‘last meal,’ it would probably be it. In the meantime, he has managed to transform our kids into huge fans too, who prefer the classic soft and crunch beef tacos with extra sour cream (I promise we only go occasionally).

But we aren’t the only ones with a deep connection to the brand. In fact, when Taco Bell’s creative director, Christopher Aryes, came onto the scene he discovered an entire American subculture of loyal fans, many of which tied the Bell back to their days in college. A critical component to Taco Bell’s rebrand, Aryes used this idea of nostalgic brand love to develop a passionate, quirky, and fun brand image that would connect to its super fans while drawing in new brand lovers.

When you think of brand love, you think of something beyond product or service. It’s a loyalty and advocacy for brands that are part of a customer’s lifestyle. What is so powerful about building brand love is that you don’t even have to prove how awesome you are, your fans do it for you (and if it happens to be a celebrity, even better).

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So what’s the recipe to Taco Bell’s success?

Supreme Customer Understanding

KNOW.YOUR.CUSTOMER. Better yet, know your most loyal customers and focus on them. Targeting Millennials, Taco Bell developed a deep understanding of their audience and their specific interests, behaviors, and motivations.

As CEO Greg Creed explains, “its [Taco Bell’s] creations and evolutions are largely — if not wholly — driven by deep insights into customers’ wants and needs, as well as the realization that food has moved from simply fuel for the body to a life experience.”

From product to platform, Taco Bell is leveraging what they know about their customers to create a full-service experience tailored specifically to them. You’ll find them active and delivering engaging content on Twitter, Reddit, and Snap Chat. Plus, initiating marketing tactics that resonate with Millennials like healthy and vegan/vegetarian menus, ‘The Bell’ pop-up hotel, and #athomewithtacobell and handing out 1 million free tacos while we’re all in quarantine.

Hot & Fiery Relationship Marketing

Taco Bell doesn’t let that flame burn out and they make sure to keep the relationship with their audiences going. Relationship marketing takes commitment, but it pays off. Building brand loyalty is front and center and interaction is key. Always work on improving customer experience, engage, and practice social listening.

Taco Bell checks all those boxes and more. Nick Tran, who lead the Bells social media efforts back in 2014, shows us how Taco Bell was ahead of the game with what he calls “real-time engagement.” There is no time wasted on social media, with their team instantly replying to posts, creating funny back and forth exchanges, and tirelessly following tags and hashtags for user-generated content. It makes people feel heard, cared for, and connected.

Authenticity That Packs a Crunch

Above all else, Taco Bell doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Poking a bit of fun of themselves in the process, they know what they can and cannot be, so they do what they know best which is add some comedic relief to the marketing game.

When they masterfully created their personality, they didn’t look inward to identify the characteristics of their brand. Instead, they turned to their main demographic and personified the brand to reflect an image that Millennials saw in themselves and were able to identify with. Taco Bell successfully managed to be that fun friend everyone wants to invite over.

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