Taco Bell’s breakfast launch a success

Indicators of consumer perception and social media engagement have steadily risen for Taco Bell since the March 27 introduction of its new breakfast platform, suggesting that the launch was successful — and that it might have had an effect on top quick-service breakfast player McDonald’s.

“This is looking very much like a positive story for Taco Bell,” said Ted Marzilli, chief executive of YouGov BrandIndex, a consumer research firm that tracked steady increases in its proprietary “buzz score” and “impression score” for Taco Bell for the past three weeks.

Beginning March 27, Taco Bell’s buzz score rose from 13.2 out of 100 to a high of 17.6 on April 16, the last day that BrandIndex collected data from about 5,000 daily surveys with American consumers on how positively or negatively they perceive brands. The chain’s climb in buzz score did not reverse even when McDonald’s began a two-week coffee giveaway on March 31 or launched its own ad campaign for McGriddles on April 14.

During that time, McDonald’s buzz score started at 10.1 on March 27 and did not get back to that level until recovering to 10.0 on April 16. It reached a low of 7.8 on April 3, three days after the start of the coffee giveaway yielded a buzz score of 8.9.

However, McDonald’s recovery appeared to pick up speed after the McGriddles commercials started airing, going from 8.1 on April 14 to 10.0 two days later. Marzilli called those increases in buzz score for Taco Bell “meaningful,” especially since those same metrics decreased slightly for McDonald’s in the campaign to date.

“If Taco Bell has more versions of the campaign, it could continue to gain similar attention, and then it’s all about how successful the menu items are,” Marzilli said. “They could be getting a new set of consumers who aren’t normal Taco Bell customers, who might permanently raise their level of perception about Taco Bell.”

The BrandIndex data cannot prove that Taco Bell’s improvements in buzz score came definitively at the expense of McDonald’s scores, Marzilli noted, nor can they separate the effect of Taco Bell’s combative ads from the effects of other negative-press events for McDonald’s, such as the “wage theft” lawsuits filed last month.

However, Marzilli could say for certain that Taco Bell’s advertising and social media efforts qualified as a successful introduction.

“All of those things for McDonald’s matter, but over the past couple weeks Taco Bell’s breakfast launch and ads have gotten a lot of pass-around effect,” Marzilli said. “They’ve appeared on network media, and the Ronald McDonald thing was clever and grabbed a lot of attention. It certainly had a good compounding effect from all the additional press.”

Also, 46 percent of BrandIndex respondents reported they were aware of the brand’s advertising, an increase from 36 percent before the March 27 launch of breakfast. BrandIndex also tracked purchase consideration, or the percentage of consumers surveyed who said they now might visit Taco Bell the next time they dine out, which rose from 32 percent to 34 percent after the breakfast launch.

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