I must admit Cool Ranch Doritos have always been one of my guilty pleasures. So the idea of lettuce, cheese and meat neatly packed into a taco-shaped Cool Ranch Dorito is, well, a cool idea. Thank you, Taco Bell!
Just for grins, I decided to see who else was enamored enough with this concept to say something in the vlogosphere. It doesn’t take long to see that the Taco Bell corporation has its own video channel on YouTube, which is garnering more than 11 million total views, much of it devoted to the trending taco product. However, I started wondering to what extent that represents real mind-share for the brand, Taco Bell, among potential consumers versus the plethora of other video apps or platforms out there. For example, Twitter’s Vine is the number one video app download (number two overall Free), and according to Apple’s app shop, that’s close to 25 million users.
The other problem I noticed about Taco Bell’s YouTube-centric video strategy is that the icon link off the main digital brand property, www.tacobell.com, takes the visitor out of its controlled brand experience and back to the Taco Bell channel that is a subdomain to www.youtube.com. Also, if you search Google for “Taco Bell video” with the Video search button, the first page of returns is almost all postings to YouTube or third party media sites like ABC or CBS, nothing owned by the main TB corporate domain.
So, you’re the digital media guru for Taco Bell, you’re driving cross-synergies between your fast food retail store and your snack food brands, and you have at least 11 million consumers loyal enough to check out your video content on YouTube. What, then, should your video strategy be? Vine is a video-based social network designed to drive more traffic for Twitter. YouTube is a broadcasting platform designed to aggregate eyeballs for Google’s ad-server business model. What should be Taco Bell’s objective with video content? Help Google and Twitter make more money? Entertain? Merely maintain a presence in the Twitterverse? How about treating its customers as a media audience?
What that means is creating a branded video interface that is multi-screen capable (web, smartphone, tablet, TV, telepresence) which not only aggregates video content that can be repurposed, i.e., TV commercials, but also takes a concerted approach to producing compelling, original content that’s integrated with the customer experience. For example, if I’m a loyal viewer of TacoBell.tv, a branded media player that lives within the main corporate domain, www.tacobell, why can’t that content follow me all the way through my customer experience?
Why not equip Taco Bell retail stores with an iPad at every table, so that I can log into my video profile, which has the last 5 orders I made so it’s easy for me to reorder, or a full customizable item-by-item order-entry menu with original video content from the chefs who cooked up the recipe, along with other user reviews, adjacent to those menu orders? Once the order is taken, the interface would allow me to immediately upload a video comment that could either be for the benefit of internal Taco Bell customer advocacy, or if appropriate, posted to the Live User Comment channel on TacoBell.tv. Here’s an even crazier idea: how about a Secret Menu channel of celebrity favorites (ode to In/Out).
Another version of TacoBell.tv would be available as a smartphone app. My TacoBell profile, using GPS and sensor-presence techniques, knows the exact store I’m entering, the last 5 meals I ordered, and can authenticate my profile, complete with my favorite video content, to the iPad embedded in the table I choose for dining. I can also in real time open a Google hangout session with my cousin in Florida to see if he shares my same tastes in Taco Bell food and video content! While you’re at it, why not reward me with a video coupon for a free desert or combo meal on my next visit? Also, I probably wouldn’t mind if TacoBell.tv asked my permission to opt-in to other video offers personalized to my consumer persona. (The current TB app in the Apple app store gets only a two and one-half star rating, so it could benefit from a few more bells and whistles.)
Short message: powerful consumer brands like Taco Bell must start thinking and acting like media companies – controlling their own brand experience with entertaining, pervasive video content and a compelling user experience across any consumption format or platform – and by so doing, converting their physical assets, like capital-intensive brick-and-mortar storefronts, into working digital capital!