It's clear as a (Taco) Bell that this brand has made major moves in 2016. Taco Bell kicked off the year with a strong start by welcoming Marisa Thalsberg, a content marketing powerhouse who forged a digital path for major brands like Estée Lauder, Revlon, and Unilever, as the new chief marketing officer. Thalsberg, believing that "innovation is a mindset and a culture," had a goal of elevating the brand's "culture-centric lifestyle." And many would consider her efforts a success, as Taco Bell has not only connected to consumers by collaborating with social media influencers and brand advocates like YouTube star Tyler Oakley and Shawn Dawson, but Taco Bell also hit a Snapchat filter record right around Cinco de Mayo, capturing 224 million users in one day.
The fiesta didn't stop there. This fast food chain took a fast casual approach with a complete makeover. Taco Bell said farewell to purple and pink laminate booths and stark white walls dabbled with shapes that appeared to be an ode to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fashion, and said hello to modern, contemporary, trendy restaurant redesigns complete with metals and dark wood. The brand explored the facets of design even further by building a shipping-container-based restaurant.
Still, there was another element that the brand revamped. This past November, Taco Bell went "all-in on its evolution" by unveiling its first logo refresh since 1995.
"In what the brand terms an 'evolution, not revolution,' the new logo mirrors the new restaurant strategy: one size doesn’t fit all. In this modern take, color makes a splash and allows customization through patterns and textures, giving usage flexibility while maintaining its iconic framework," Thalsberg said in a press release.
Just when consumers couldn't find more to taco 'bout, this burrito-slinging brand rolled up even more news. Taco Bell is a veteran at cultivating an experience for guests beyond food. From its "Feed the Beat" movement, which brought together over a thousand new musicians and fans — and offered free food to these artists — to its Live Más Scholarship, which honors the creative pursuits of passionate individuals and the aspirations that fuel them, this year alone awarding $1 million to 220 dreamers, Taco Bell is all about sharing the stories of the people around them. Aside from clever and witty short-form videos, Taco Bell highlights the tales of scholarship award winners on their YouTube page.
And speaking of tales, Taco Bell shelled out a new venture, one that brings their branded content and integrated storytelling to new heights: Taco Tales. Each episode in this series features the brand's take on stories of "crazy, unexpected things" fans have done in pursuit of Taco Bell goodness — admittedly with humorous exaggeration.
"We're really charged with how do we continue to really bring the brand to life over time," Ryan Rimsnider, senior manager of social strategy, told Ad Age. "We don't need more awareness of the Taco Bell brand, we just want people to fall more in love with us."
Fall more in love? Taco Bell was named Foodable's Most Loved Brand of 2016, so perhaps they are already on their way. It's crazy to think that in spite of all of this, this is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Taco Bell's social media success this year — a simple scroll through their Twitter feed makes that quite apparent, because what other brand has a #TacoEmojiEngine?
Where will this brand go from here on out? Consumers and other companies aspiring to reach a new level of branded content will be watching in 2017. But until then, congratulations to Taco Bell, and surely the brand will be ringing in the new year with more creativity to come!