Kudos to Taco Bell

February 07, 2011

Will more fast-feeders and supermarkets disclose ingredients after Taco Bell brouhaha?

Football coaches know the best defense is a strong offense. Taco Bell pulled out its playbook when charged in a lawsuit that its taco filling isn’t really beef—and ran at its accusers at full speed with full-page ads headlined, “Thanks for suing us. Here’s the truth about our seasoned beef.”

Our kudos to Taco Bell for coming back strong. At The Lempert Report, we feel that even if these ads cost a million bucks or more, it was money well spent to protect the brand franchise. There’s a lesson here for CPG and retailers that believe they’re right when made to look bad out of the blue. In this age of social media and innumerable watchdogs (of varying credibility) waiting to pounce, companies need strategic communicators with an equally sharp bite.

The longer the stench of an unjustified claim fouls the air, the more it hurts image among consumers who don’t know the facts and could be swayed against a brand. Perhaps Taco Bell exceeded most companies’ comfort level when it disclosed ingredients, but it was smart to emblazon its ad with a “REAL BEEF” logo.

We’ll let the courts and the lawyers sort out the merits of what each side contends. But credit the first score to Taco Bell in the court of public opinion. We also express hope now that all fast-feeders disclose their ingredients, so consumers will have a better chance to make wiser choices and balance their taste desires with health. The same goes for the prepared food sections in supermarkets. By taking the lead in local trading areas, food stores could reinforce their positions as responsible family-centered outlets and perhaps become more of a go-to source for quick meals than the fast-food restaurants. This is especially true if they have nothing to conceal.