Taco Bell goes retro with “Where’s the beef?” defense

Want to know when you’ve lost the PR battle? When you get headlines like this:

Taco Bell Defends Beef, Calls Suit ‘Bogus’

tacobellTaco Bell’s real problem is that this lawsuit doesn’t sound that outlandish. It just confirms a lot of people’s secret suspicions – whether true or not. Taco Bell’s brand promise is cheap, pseudo-Mexican-themed food. Nobody looks at them and thinks, “Good food.” They think, “Inexpensive, filling and no I don’t really want to know what’s in it.” Even the company’s defense plays into this. Chihuahua HQ has put out a press release saying,

Our seasoned beef recipe contains 88% quality USDA-inspected beef and 12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture.

“88% of our meat is actually meat. No, really.” You’re not going to win a lot of hearts and minds with that one guys.

What the company needs to do is go with this instead of fighting it. How about an ad campaign with a Lenten theme – “Taco Bell, perfect for meatless Fridays.” Or, “Taco Bell – Fast food for vegetarians.”

Stephen Baker is smart and I am dumb

Friday I haughtily derided Mr. Baker (a reporter for BusinessWeek) for wondering IF Royce Clayton had been paid for discussing the Taco Bell promotion in the World Series:

Yeah, if that was a coincidence then pass the tiara because I’m Princess Marie of Roumania.

Well, I wear a size 7 and 7/8 tiara. Quoth the Globe:

It’s Clayton who seems the big loser here – shilling for Taco Bell without getting a dime.

Mr. Baker took a skeptical view of things and was right. I took the cynical view and was wrong. That’s pretty much always the case.

BTW, I’m writing this during the 2nd inning of game 4 and I can say without cynicism or any chance of being wrong that there’s no way my prediction of the Rockies in 6 can come true.

fighting whitiesWhatever the outcome of tonight’s duel it’s been a good day for the area’s sports teams. The New England Cheaters demolished Washington 52-7. I loathe the Washington football team with a passion and love to see them humiliated. This isn’t that enjoyable type of sport hatred like I feel for the Yankees. This is an actual feeling of moral disgust. That there is a team with that nickname never ceases to appall me. I am not sure how any reasonable news outlet justifies printing the team’s name. The only thing that could have made today’s victory better is if the Sox Jacoby Ellsbury, who is of Navajo descent, could have helped. Well at least he got to beat Cleveland and it’s mascot.

Dumb question of the day: Is Taco Bell playing players to shill during the game?

Only possible answer: Yes.

I’m just hoping that BusinessWeek’s Stephen Baker didn’t write the headline for this blog post. He’s smarter than that. (Of course he didn’t predict the Rockies in 6, so look who’s talking.)

tacohell2But what got me was that Royce Clayton, the Red Sox player wearing a Fox mike, “happened” to go up to the guy who stole the base and tell him about the promotion, and what his stolen base meant. This left me wondering if this back-up shortstop is being paid by Fox to promote Taco Bell, and if the Red Sox and Major League Baseball are on board with that.

Yeah, if that was a coincidence then pass the tiara because I’m Princess Marie of Roumania. The only thing more painful than the Clayton-Ellsbury moment was the “interview” with the COO for Taco Bell. Dude, get a spokesman. And some dental work.

Kudos to Baker for including this …

And they must not have liked it when commentator Tim McCarver welcomed us back to the game by saying, “From shilling to Schilling.”

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Just a song before I go…

On vacation next week so few posts. But here’s something to tide you over:

Waylon Smithers must need cash: Why else would he be selling his collection of 4,000 Barbies … I mean Malibu Stacies?

The Return Of The Single Greatest Headline Writing Opportunity of the 21st Century:

All of the following are still available

  • Black Jack gambles it can ban Loving
  • Black Jack not a Loving town
  • Loving goes bust on Black Jack ban
  • Loving pair can’t make full house in Black Jack
  • Black Jack house rules: pair must split

Mr. Loving and his paramour have decided to sue the town of Black Jack, Missouri, claiming rules prohibiting the unmarried couple and their children from living together are unconstitutional.

Don’t Forget To Admit When You’re Wrong: Consumerist sets the story straight about the masked men and the 25K sauce packets. The upshot: No masks. Teens not grownups. Eleven 40-gallon trashbags, not six. Packets not taken on purpose. “One individual simply ate ‘A LOT’ of Taco Bell and stockpiled the extra packets from his meals in the back of his car for three years.” Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

And it’s not like I never post from the road. I remain proud of my coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Never let it be said that merely being on another continent is an impediment…

(from the original Collateral Damage @ CMO.)

Sep 01, 2005
Notes From The Road

Here I sit on the Blvd. St. Germain, in the shadow of some minor church that looks to have been already old when St. Joan was a schoolgirl. From a radio somewhere Curtis Mayfield is singing “Superfly” – bless the French, they may like J. Lewis, but they like the good stuff as well. I have just finished a fine omelette with tomatoes, onions and gruyere at a brassiere that is wonderfully indistinguishable from a dozen others. In front of me a grand parade of great Gallic noses ranging from large to magnificent pass by. The cliche is that the eye is the window to the soul but it is the nose that tells you if the soul is interesting enough to bother peeping into. If the French are looking down their noses at the rest of us, who can blame them? They are just enjoying the view.

I have no idea where the French got the reputation as being rude to travellers. I find them wonderful. And that is not just because I am from Boston, a city that really can not cast the first stone when it comes to being rude to others. The only trouble I have ever had was on my last trip here when I ran into a very rude person at the Tourism office. That was more than made up for this time by the man at the tourist office who helped us find a toy store that sold tanks and made Collateral Damage Jr. very happy. <BTW, French keyboards are laid out differently and don’t have apostrophes, so I am not totally to blame for my poor spelling this time.>

Looting in New Orleans? Isn’t that redundant?  Given the corruption of that city’s government in general and the police department in particular I cant help but think the citizens view this as though they are finally getting their cut.

What is truly appalling in the wake of Katrina is how badly the relief and rescue efforts have been bungled. It’s not like they didn’t know this was coming. Officials have been expecting and planning for this disaster practically since the French <AH HA!> settled the damn city. Even so all the government agencies appear too have been caught flat footed: This should deservedly cost a lot of politicians and bureaucrats their jobs

Sept. 02, 2005
More notes from the road

I am writing this from an internet cafe across from the Lycee Charlemagne – given the age of the students I would say roughly high school. It is oddly relieving to note that French teenagers look every bit as stupid with a cigarette as American teens do. I have just stumbled across a wonderful English bookstore on rue Saint Paul called The Red Wheelbarrow (after the poem by William Carlos Williams). I had a fine converstation with the owner, whose name I didn’t get (bad jounalist bad! No croissant for you!). She, who has my dream job, is from New York and went to school in Boston. I am (now) from Boston and went to school in New York. Those fine coincidences make the day.

We talked about how difficult it is to be in the midst of current events – both the aftermath of Katrina in the States and the two horrible fires that have killed so many families here in Paris – and at the same time remembering to cherish our blessings and good fortune.

It is a strange thing being so far away from the states when a disaster hits. It’s not as though being in Boston would put me closer in any real sense to Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, but still I have the feeling I should be home – plugged into my communication network and therefore being responsible, not frittering my time away on something as frivolous as vacation. Call it vacationer’s guilt.

In watching the president on CNN and the BBC, I am struck by how much this disaster needs and doesn’t have a Giuliani. If not a hero, then at least grown up who is willing to say honestly how bad things are and what they do or don’t know. That gave Rudy a credibility so we trusted him when he said things will get better. Never mind getting the Ex-Presidents involved in this, maybe the current president should see what Mr. G is up to.

Watching the coverage of all this on those two TV networks, their reports are so at odds with what the people at FEMA and elsewhere in the government are saying that I am forced to conclude that either the press has grossly overplayed how bad things are or that the government is more concerned with spin than facts – sadly, either is a real possibility.

What is certain, and what we are just beginning to hear about, is that the defense of “no one could have predicted this” is absurd. The threats to New Orleans have been documented thoroughly. If you doubt this go back and look at coverage at the start of every hurricane season. The “what will happen if New Orleans gets it” story is written and re-written every year.

There is a huge difference between how the Beeb and CNN are covering Katrina. Both because the Brits seem to feel that there is still other news going on in the world as well – the deaths by stampede in Iraq, the anniversary of the massacre at the school in Beslan in Russia, typhoons hitting both Taiwan and mainland China – and because the BBC people are much more comfortable asking people, officials and people on the street, difficult questions. At CNN, they appear much more concerned with being liked, with letting the viewers know that CNN feels the same things the viewers do. It is the difference between an having an avocation and building a brand. CNN has put a heavy emphasis on heartwarming and funny stories of survival. Last night’s interview with the two ex-prez was one soft ball question after another. The only thing more appaling was what I saw of Diane Sawyer’s interview with the current president. I assume the president is upset by the devestation, so stop asking him about that. Facts, please.

Two predictions:

1. If, in fact, the word refugees is accurate and sticks around, there will be hell to pay from the American public. Refugees happen in other countries, not the US.
2. Louisiana, being Louisiana, there is a story of corruption and malfesance at the heart of this disaster that will boggle the mind.

 
 
     
   
   
 
 
 
     
   

Short takes …

  1. Apparently I do write for something other than this blog: As Bombs Fall From Sky in Beirut, One Group of Marketers Points to the Sun
  2. Even by my obsessive parenting standards this is over the top: “A Kentucky-based software company is helping parents keep track of what their children are eating while they’re at school.” Kids need to use a special code when they purchase food at school then parents can go online and see what their kids have been buying. “The program also lets parents prevent their children from purchasing certain foods by putting them on a banned item list.”
  3. Group of masked men enter Indiana Taco-Bell toting six 40-gallon trash bags filled with individual packets of taco sauce – about 25,000 in all.” They were returning it. See, the software works.
  4. CURSE THE PEOPLE OF GEORGIA!! They have voted out one of the most amusing people ever to sit in the US House of Representatives: Cynthia McKinney. Gosh, I hope there’s another fool waiting in the wings to keep me amused.