Smart digital marketers take into account many contingences, and often even plan for the unexpected, but a World Series promotion shows the importance of including a social component in a major campaign just in case.
Thanks to the heroics of San Francisco Giants Angel Pagan, his stolen base against the Detroit Tigers resulted in a free Doritos Locos Tacos for everyone in the U.S. from 2-6 pm local time on October 30th. Show up at your local Taco Bell at the appointed time, and a free taco is yours for the eating. Taco Bell CMO Brian Niccol was all smiles when he traded barbs with Fox announcer Chris Myers during Game Two of the World Series over the expected impact of the stolen base-free taco deal. Niccol said he expected several free tacos to find their way from local Taco Bells to the mouths of hungry patrons. Seemed like a win-win for all?
What was and still is missing from the campaign was the social media component. The free-for-all, come and get it taco bonanza required nothing more than finding your local outlet and showing up. No “Like” on Facebook, no Tweet to Taco Bell, no dial an 800 IVR number to punch in your zip code and get a code for the free taco. No social data, no big data, no data at all. Unless Taco Bell has hidden cameras planted in their stores or expects folks to fill out a form to get heir taco, the campaign has no legs with little potential for future interactions with consumers.
And yes, Taco Bell could not have planned for Hurricane Sandy, but with 50 million U.S. consumers impacted from Frankenstorm Sandy, there’s little hope that 1) local Taco Bells from Virginia to the Canadian border will be open from 2-6 pm on Oct. 30 and 2) if they are open, even the most die hard taco eater won’t be foolish enough to Run for the Border. Had Taco Bell had the foresight to have a social media component to the campaign, a quick Facebook message to those who pinged the company in exchange for a Doritos Loco could get a push message informing them of a new date and time for the free grub.
A Gartner colleague emphasized that the most important part of any digital campaign happens during the pre-execution strategy sessions. Planning for the unexpected is always smart but sometimes even the most detailed-oriented teams can overlook a late-season megastorm. And that’s why we have social media. The socialsphere (especially Twitter) is on fire with communications related to Hurricane Sandy with even local emergency services using social media to inform constituencies about shelters and evacuation plans.
In the grand scheme of things, Taco Bell’s miscue is trivial compared to the impending destruction of Hurricane Sandy. When life return to some sense of normalcy, it will be interesting to tackle the issue of social media as part of a multichannel campaign in which TV is the main message medium. For now, in the words of Sgt.Phil Esterhaus, “Let’s be careful out there.”