Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Tacos Launch Buoyed by Fan Buzz

Long-suffering Taco Bell fans were finally rewarded Thursday with nationwide availability of the Cool Ranch version of its Doritos Locos Tacos.

The launch comes almost exactly one year after the debut of Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos. The elder Locos Tacos have since become the most successful product launch in Taco Bell history with more than 350 million sold to date, the brand says.

To appropriately fete the latest variety, Taco Bell began its social outreach campaign in January. And, according to Taco Bell, the newest Locos Tacos are already making a splash of their own. In fact, Taco Bell says the arrival of Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, or DLT, has been more liked, shared, and talked about by consumers than any other product in its history.

While Taco Bell did not share any specific metrics, at the very least, the brand has gained about 1.6 million Facebook fans in the past year. A ClickZ story about the March 2012 launch reports 8.3 million likes. As of Thursday, that figure is 9.9 million.

Tressie Lieberman, director of digital and social marketing at Taco Bell, says eager fans have been asking about Cool Ranch ever since the original DLT launched last year. As a result, Taco Bell kicked off 2013 with the Facebook teaser, “Anything could happen in 2013,” and an image of Cool Ranch Doritos and a taco side by side. The post received more than 133,000 likes.

Then, on February 13, Taco Bell used Twitter’s Vine app, which had debuted just three weeks prior, to announce the launch date.

“People were just ecstatic about knowing the day,” Lieberman says. “We saw conversations go through the roof and wanted to get it into the hands of people talking about it early.”

From there, Taco Bell began real-time activations, including so-called “epic deliveries” and “speakeasies” for sneak previews.

Recipients include: a New York woman who asked Taco Bell to be her Valentine; a Minneapolis university student who brought together enough friends and family to finish 1,000 Cool Ranch DLTs; and a Seattle YouTube personality who got a surprise delivery after an exchange on Twitter with Taco Bell and a special request video on her channel.

As a result of its epic deliveries, Taco Bell also adopted the tagline, “That. Just. Happened.” Lieberman says use of this phrase comes from social listening and leveraging what fans are already saying.

Taco Bell also used Twitter and Facebook to stage events in New York, Dallas, and LA with secret passwords including “blue bouquet,” “make me look cool,” and “it’s the blue one,” at a flower shop, barber shop, and parking lot, respectively. Each event featured Cool Ranch DLTs for password holders. Videos of the events appear on Facebook and YouTube.

Lieberman estimates these events resulted in as many as 3,000 tacos given away.

And there’s more content to come.

Taco Bell is also using Vine to capture first bites of the new tacos on Thursday.

In addition, Taco Bell is launching TV spots based on fans’ responses to the new product. They are called “Wow” and “Duh” after two popular reactions to the Cool Ranch DLT – either fans can’t believe it exists or have wanted it for a long time.

Lieberman says Taco Bell wanted to drive engagement in restaurants, so, in addition, on Cool Ranch DLT packaging, Taco Bell is inviting fans to post to Instagram or Twitter their #wow or #duh faces – using those specific hashtags followed by #CoolRanchDLT – for the chance to see their images on a billboard in Times Square.

Lieberman says Taco Bell will contact participating customers to send them a link to their billboard appearances. The billboard launched Wednesday and will be up for five weeks.

In addition, Taco Bell gave Facebook fans early access to the new tacos on Wednesday. Lieberman says that means there was no in-store advertising on Wednesday, but fans in the know could still ask for a Cool Ranch DLT.

“We really have such a huge social community with people that are so passionate about the product,” Lieberman says. “We wanted them to be able to say they’re in the know.”

As a result, Lieberman says the brand saw double the number of conversations yesterday.

She attributes the feverish reaction to simply listening to fans.

“Any time a brand shows it’s listening, we see that resonate,” she says.

DLT fans have more to look forward to – Lieberman says Taco Bell has a DLT flavor called “Flamas” in the works that has a spicy lime flavor that will “blow your mind.”

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