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Augmented Reality Puts Twitter on Steroids for Taco Bell

  |  March 8, 2012   |  Comments

Doritos Locos taco launch includes a gee-whiz mobile integration with cups and boxes.

taco-bell-doritos-finalTaco Bell's huge launch of its Doritos Locos Tacos today is using an augmented reality app and QR code to amp up the social buzz around the event. The product rollout, which partners Taco Bell's parent Yum Brands and Doritos parent Frito-Lay, started at drive-up windows at midnight March 8. The new tacos are made in a nacho cheese Doritos shell. They are expected to be the biggest launch in Taco Bell's 50-year history.

For several weeks Taco Bell has been relying heavily on Twitter and Facebook to generate interest in the orange-shelled tacos, including a February Tweet-Off to encourage users to retweet the product name. The launch campaign seeks to build on that base of followers. As a key digital element, the company is putting an augmented reality feature on its cups and boxes. The AR app allows people to see live tweets posted by people talking about the new tacos, says Tressie Lieberman, Taco Bell director of digital marketing. The work was handled by Draftfcb Orange County.

To access the AR feature, smartphone users must download the Taco Bell app and scan the cup or box. Then they can see and interact with the product-related Twitter updates on their phone. The app also allows users to share their own content on Twitter and Facebook, says Lieberman.

Some of those tweets will also be featured on digital billboards in Times Square and on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The company has about 166,000 followers on Twitter, compared to 8.3 million likes on Facebook.

The restaurant chain is also introducing a QR code that will direct users to a digital branded certificate of "achievement" for trying the new tacos. In addition, it offers exclusive online content about musicians in the Taco Bell Feed the Beat program, says Lieberman. (For several years the Taco Bell program has been picking up the tab for artists and bands eating post-show meals at its restaurants.)

The Doritos taco launch is the company's second foray into augmented reality in recent months. Between Jan. 26 and March 11, Taco Bell held a contest for free PlayStation Vita handhelds that revolved around an online code printed on specially marked food packaging. One of the places that customers could input the code was on Taco Bell's mobile app, where they could play each other in an exclusive AR game developed by PlayStation, called Reality Fighters Dojo.

The company later had to issue an apology when the contest was hacked and some people who input the code were mistakenly told they were winners. A do-over contest for those players will be held March 21.

Taco Bell's augmented reality efforts follow similar efforts from other brands such as Ray-Ban, Nike and Volkswagen. In Oct. 2011 the VW Beetle's print ad campaign housed an AR feature for people who downloaded a custom app on their smartphones or tablets. To activate the AR, users held up their mobile device in front of outdoor ads to see images such as cars zooming into the air from a 3-D ramp. Taco Bell, however, seems to be one of the trendsetters in connecting AR technology to live social media content.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joan Voight is a Contributing Editor to ClickZ. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has covered online and offline media, marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s for several business publications. She spent nine years at Adweek magazine, where she was San Francisco bureau chief, national senior writer and contributing reporter.

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