Taco Bell Breakfast Defectors – By Thomas Billison

Case Study 2: Taco Bell breakfast

In the realm of fast food, there are many different choices when it comes to lunch. But when trying to find breakfast, the choices are limited. Until recently, Taco Bell was not a contender in the fast food breakfast market. With the addition of a breakfast menu in 2013, and a social media marketing campaign, Taco Bell penetrated into the breakfast food market.

History of Taco Bell:

Today Taco Bell is a subsidiary of Yum Brand Foods, specializing in Tex-Mex style fast food. Taco Bell started out as a simple taco stand owned by Glen Bell in 1952. This stand was originally named Taco-Tia. Eventually Bell acquired another chain of restaurants known as El Taco. Afterwards Bell sold the El Taco chain to his business partner, who in turn rebranded the restaurants to Taco Bell. This transition took place in 1962, and soon after, the fast food chain grew exponentially. In 1967 the 100th Taco Bell restaurant opened. In 1978 Taco Bell changed hands again as it was bought out by PepsiCo. PepsiCo acquired 325 restaurants, after they became a public company earlier that decade. Under the PepsiCo acquisition, the Taco Bell franchise grew, opening even more locations around the US. In 1995 became part of the Yum Brand Food chain, which owns other fast food names such as KFC and Pizza Hut. This saw Taco Bell existing in the same building with other fast food chains that Yum Brand Food’s owned (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taco_Bell).

Taco Bell, derived from humble beginnings, is now a national fast-food chain. It always strived for innovation in regards to service and partnerships, but also committed to its Tex-Mex style products. This being said, Taco Bell is not afraid of experimenting with new products while keeping with their typical Mexican food style. For example, when Taco Bell partnered with Doritos, they created a taco housed in a crunch Doritos shell. In 2012 Taco Bell revealed that they were going to release a new breakfast menu. They announced that they would offer a breakfast burrito, a breakfast wrap (similar to their crunch wrap), cinnamon delights (which came from another partner, Cinnabon), Seattle’s best coffee, and orange juice (https://www.tacobell.com/food/breakfast). However, it wasn’t until 2013 that Taco Bell began testing their breakfast menu on select locations around the United States. The Taco Bell breakfast menu was “officially” released nationwide March 27, 2014. It was a year later that Taco Bell began a marketing plan involving the social publishing of their Breakfast Defectors Campaign, launching it all with a series of videos.

Goals of the Campaign:

The Breakfast Defectors campaign began with a serious of videos, released through different channels of communication calling social consumers to take action. This action enticed people to try out the new Taco Bell breakfast menu, then post about it on social media using hashtag metadata. The primary goal of the Breakfast Defectors campaign was to further develop the Taco Bell breakfast menu (http://digiday.com/brands/taco-bell-seeks-breakfast-defectors-latest-campaign/). Being a new addition to the Taco Bell brand and the Yum Brand Food line, the breakfast menu needed to be pushed over social media in order to compete with other fast food chains. Taco Bell’s primary competition in the realm of breakfast menus is McDonald’s. McDonald’s Egg McMuffins and other various breakfast products have entrenched themselves as the primary source of fast food breakfast in the nation. Entering a relatively new market, with a largely well-known player, Taco Bell had to use a clever marketing campaign in order to compete.

In order to achieve their goals, Taco Bell used as many visual tools as they could to promote their new line of breakfast foods. This resulted in a series of visual advertisements that prompted the use of social media. Taco Bell primarily spread their message through TV and YouTube advertising, trying to start a movement for people to eat their breakfast food and share the experience with #breakfastdefector(s) (http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/04/taco_bell_biscuit_taco_dining.html). Using the various tools provided by the social media sights, you can see what people have posted about the Taco Bell breakfast movement. Taco Bell used their videos to kick off this campaign which grew organically over the last few months. After letting the campaign go for a few months, Taco Bell could measure the success of the campaign through the sentiment generated towards the new breakfast menu.

Campaign videos:

The campaign started with a handful of advertisements in March of 2015. The first few videos were released on television. These videos were designed like a street interview with “random” people. They would inquire about the new breakfast food served at Taco Bell. All of these commercials ended with a crowd of people declaring themselves as breakfast defectors.

There were many variations of this ad, released all over the TV and internet. Using the phrase “breakfast defector(s)” as their primary campaign tool, Taco Bell was able to get people to promote the launch of their breakfast menu online through social media. These call to action videos were not enough to get people’s attention both nationally and internationally, so Taco Bell also used celebrities and fictitious ads to attack McDonald’s and promote their new breakfast menu.

The next video produced was a fictional narrative, created for television and later embraced online. This ad was originally played during the Walking Dead season premiere and March Madness sports games to gain public attention. Being originally aired as a short 60 second video on March 24th, a longer version of this video was released online soon after. This video depicts a dystopian society, emulating the McDonald’s breakfast food as an oppressing force. As the resolution in this video, Taco Bell made themselves the heroes showing that their breakfast food is a fresh new choice.

This video is an embodiment of their slogan “Thinking outside the bun”. Using this video, Taco Bell was able to get people on various social media communities excited for their new breakfast menu. With their slight nod to Orwellian dramatization of breakfast food, Taco Bell created this video to be a piece of social entertainment. This video has been echoed over the internet, not just as a campaign piece, but also as a captivating video drawing viewers. An interesting development happened while I was writing this paper. This particular video was muted on YouTube due to copyright content. This could have occurred from many times it was shared on the web, and the YouTube algorithm flagged it incorrectly. No matter the reason, you can find the full video with the original audio on Vimeo.

These last two videos are again, purely promotional videos for Taco Bell and their breakfast menu. Their next video shows many different social media posts from various sites using the #breakfastdefectors tag to identify consumers enjoyment of the new Taco Bell breakfast food. As a continued promotion of the campaign, Taco Bell gave away free breakfast crunch wraps to further entice people to “defect”.

Finally, Taco Bell used popular figure, James Harden, to promote the merits of the new breakfast items. Using celebrities, such as the basketball player, to advertise new products is a fairly common practice. This advertisement expands the Breakfast Defectors campaign to the general population. Not all people connect to the “Orwellian” fictional narrative Taco Bell created, so they also used celebrity endorsements to reach a greater target market.

Although the videos specify a hash tag to market the campaign on social media, they never specify which social media platform to use. This allows Taco Bell to reach multiple social communities allowing them to market their new product to more people. As a response, people readily used the hashtag along all the forms of social media that allowed for hashtaging.

Social Media response:

The first social media response I looked at was how people used Facebook for the Breakfast Defectors campaign. Facebook was used, like the other social media sources, to post peoples experiences during the campaign. The easiest way to find each of these posts was through the use of the hashtag attributed to this campaign. What sets Facebook apart from the other sites is the ability for random people to set up generic pages, not related to Taco Bell, and utilize the hashtag promoting the Taco Bell campaign. Facebook makes a distinction between an average user and a specified page. Anybody can create a page, but a page generally represents a highly recognizable individual, an organization, or other businesses. Although recently Facebook has changed the metrics of pages, decreasing the amount of viewership they produce, it still has a significant effect on a social media campaign. Having both average people and specialized pages promote the Breakfast Defectors campaign, Taco bell has an increased amount of viewership promoting their new breakfast menu. The other difference with Facebook is that there were more mentions of the sales promotion Taco Bell offered. Throughout all the other social media sights, there weren’t many (if any) mentions of the free food Taco Bell was giving out (https://www.tacobell.com/steal-a-breakfast). Taco Bell gave out free crunch wraps on at least three occasions, hoping to win over more people to the new menu. In the end Facebook became the central facilitator oh these messages.




Twitter, unlike Facebook, makes no distinction between pages (organizations and celebrities) and ordinary people like you and me. Therefore it’s response to this campaign looked a little different. The main difference was that Twitter had a greater posting response than Facebook. The number of posts found under the hashtag was innumerable. The second difference was that there was no distinction between who posted for the campaign. Twitter makes no difference between the account of an average individual, a celebrity, or an organization. This was both beneficial and non-beneficial to the Breakfast Defectors campaign. It was beneficial for the posts to aggregate together so people would have more exposure with the help of the hashtag mechanics used on twitter. A down side however is the limited viewership and sponsorship form celebrities and organizations. Twitter can sometimes become a jumbled mess of posts, difficult to distinguish from one another. This could potentially decrease the likelihood of people seeing the campaign if they aren’t looking for it.




Instagram had a completely different use for the Breakfast Defectors campaign. Instagram is a new rising site for social media. Being owned by Facebook, but completely unique, gives it a whole different perspective on posting and utilizing hashtags. Instagram is a picture sharing service, different than Pinterest. Instagram organizes its pictures in a feed, with the ability to search through a general feed of everybody’s pictures. Utilizing the ability to add captions and hashtags to the pictures, it was easy to find all of the posts for the Breakfast Defectors campaign. Another distinction of Instagram is that it’s primarily used from a mobile phone. This made the campaign more prominent as people were able to share photos in real time, or at the point of purchase. Instagram is very organized and easy to use, making the promotion much more visible.




I did look through other sources of social media, but did not find as much material to warrant any real mention besides the use of Reddit. There was hardly anything found on Pinterest or Snapchat. When looking through Pinterest, I only saw a few posts related to Breakfast Defectors. Half of those posts were primarily about the “Orwellian” ad that they created to start off the campaign. When looking through Snapchat, I couldn’t really find anything about the campaign. This was expected however due to Snapchat’s primary purpose of providing a social community, not its ability to promote advertising. Reddit however, a pseudo blog site where literally every social community on the internet can aggregate, had only a few mentions about the Breakfast Defectors campaign.

Finally, I would like to make a distinction between the primary platforms for introducing the campaign. Television was the first channel that Taco Bell used to bring this campaign to the social consumers. Later, Taco Bell allowed the ads to be broadcast through YouTube. YouTube is a unique social media site, having primarily hosting the ability for social publishing. In regards to this campaign, people uploaded the ads onto YouTube. This then made YouTube a platform to see the ads, as well as a place that utilized the ads in other videos. The most interesting part about YouTube, is that Taco Bell wasn’t always the benefactor that uploaded their own ads. As in Facebook, random people shared the video which increased their viewership.


Although I did not research the competition that Taco Bell faced as much, I did look into McDonald’s latest campaign for their breakfast food. Taco Bell targeted McDonalds pretty heavily in their campaign, as they tried to play down the competitions breakfast food. The whole dystopian call to action video framed McDonald’s as vile oppressors (http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/taco-bell-urges-break-breakfast-dystopia/297721/). As a response, and a new development, McDonald’s recently changed their breakfast options, allowing for an all-day breakfast menu. And, seeing the success of the Taco Bell campaign, McDonalds went to social media to spread their message. As of now, the new McDonald’s campaign is about a month old, and has caught a lot of traction (http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ad-day-mcdonalds-all-day-breakfast-here-and-everyones-losing-their-minds-167386). Just looking at what McDonald’s put out already, it appears to be on a much larger scale than the Taco Bell campaign. It will be interesting to watch what unfolds in the battle of the breakfast menus.

Outcomes of the campaign:


The Taco Bell Breakfast Defectors campaign is a very successful social media campaign. Without access to many of the records, it is hard to get a clear measure of how successful the campaign was, however with the free tools provided by the internet I am able to reflect on many of the attributes that made the campaign a success (http://socialmention.com/search?q=%23breakfastdefector&t=all&l=&filter=&sort_by=date&tspan).


The best way to measure the success of the Breakfast Defectors campaign is to monitor the sentiment it created. When looking at the social media posts alone, I was able to see how people reacted towards the new breakfast food. Generally speaking, the multiple social communities reacted positively towards the Taco Bell campaign. There were also lots of pictures of the breakfast food, most of which helped boost the appeal of the food. When looking at a website that helps aggregates the various sources of social media, you can see how much people loved the breakfast food. People generally produced positive sentiment or neutral sentiment according to social mentions. This resulted in an overall positive sentiment due to the absence of negative sentiment.



Speaking in terms of the general reach of this campaign, Taco Bell reached a couple thousand people on Instagram, hundreds on Facebook, and thousands on Twitter. Looking at the data above, the campaign was able to accrue a reach of 11,111 during the week of November 9th – 11th. This is impressive that the campaign has lasted this long on social media. It has been active for 9 months now. Adding to the reach of the campaign, the ad videos Taco Bell put on YouTube have thousands of views all together. The reach and stickiness of this campaign defiantly make Breakfast Defectors a successful example of social media marketing.


In conclusion, Taco Bell has successfully made a first impression on the fast food breakfast market. Through the use of social media, and the help from video advertising, Taco Bell was able to break into this new market. When they started this campaign, they allowed it to grow on its own through social media. The only guidance they gave was through the initial call to action videos and supporting videos they released along the way. This campaign has lasted a long time, for a social media campaign, since its initial startup in March. Unfortunately, it is coming towards an end, but gained a lot of good traction for Taco Bell’s new menu items. With their new breakfast menu received positively on social media, Taco Bell has now become a contender in a market previously ruled by McDonalds. With McDonalds starting their own social media campaign recently, Taco Bell will have to think out of the “bun” again to keep competing on the same grounds.

















Taco Bell Breakfast Defectors – By Thomas Billison

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