By Katie Lombardi
Thank you for suing us.
You just read the first line in Taco Bell’s rebuttal to a class action lawsuit that claims the fast food chain doesn’t use real beef in its tacos and burritos. Last Friday, Taco Bell hit the public with a massive ad campaign to make it clear to the people who are suing them: "Not only is your claim a lie, but guess what? We are going to sue you!"
Public relations professionals know that in most cases it’s better to respond than to say nothing at all. Taco Bell’s tongue-in-cheek ad will certainly grab the attention of consumers but will it convince them that the Bell's seasoned beef is really 88% beef and 12% secret recipe?
I am not convinced. However, I don’t typically eat at Taco Bell so the lawsuit and its allegations aren’t changing my behavior. Taco Bell probably shouldn’t worry about consumers like me anyway. But for those customers who are actually raising an eyebrow at the idea that its meat filling is a mixture of oats, ground meat, and whatever else is thrown in there, it’s time to call in an expert. Edelman just released the results from its 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, which show Americans don’t want to hear from “a guy like me” (think Jarred from Subway). They want to hear from a trusted expert. Americans want a response from the CEO of a company or someone who has substantial credentials and authority.
My advice to Taco Bell: Hire a team of food scientists to test and confirm that your beef is really beef. And if you can’t back up your claim then it’s time to be more transparent with the public. It’s difficult to sound believable when you’re the second guy to scream foul. It’s turning into a “he said, she said” game and for people who do care, Taco Bell should do more than just run a snarky ad campaign.
But again I have to ask, do people really care and why? You’re eating Taco Bell, not buying organic groceries at Whole Foods. Are you really that surprised?
Katie Lombardi is a student in the Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School and can be reached at email@example.com.