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Taco Bell's new Doritos Locos Tacos appear to have lifted consumer perception of both brands, especially with regular patrons of Mexican restaurants, according to YouGov BrandIndex, a daily consumer perception research service.
A week after the campaign broke on March 8, Mexican restaurant patrons' perception of Taco Bell broke beyond the average perception for top national QSR chains, where it still remains by a solid amount.
Although the original combo dish, which debuted along with the brand's new "Live Mas" tagline, helped Taco Bell with Mexican QSR diners, it has had a milder positive impact with all adults 18+, who still perceive it below the average for top national QSR chains.
Doritos also experienced a nearly two-month spike in perception with these consumers following the launch.
Taco Bell and Doritos were measured with YouGov BrandIndex's Buzz score, which asks respondents: "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"
On March 8, Taco Bell had a 14 buzz score with Mexican restaurant diners, a few points below the 19 score for the top national QSR average. Throughout the course of the next two months, the brand twice achieved a score of 32, topping the QSR average by more than 13 points on both occasions. Taco Bell is currently at 29, compared to the top QSR national average of 20.
For all adults 18+, the story was also positive, according to Ted Marzilli, YouGov BrandIndex's senior vice president and global managing director. In this demographic on March 8, Taco Bell had a 9 buzz score, which peaked two weeks later, but with a 20 score, slightly ahead of the top QSR average of 19.
Currently, the Taco Bell buzz score is 16, well above where it was when the campaign started, but still a couple of points below the top national QSR buzz score of 19.
The buzz scores from this single menu launch seem to have turned around Taco Bell's negative consumer perceptions from 2011, when the brand's reputation was hit from a now-dropped lawsuit questioning the content of its beef mixture.
In January, Marzilli said Taco Bell was the QSR brand most negatively affected in 2011, and had not yet recovered (from the lawsuit) in the minds of consumers.
The Doritos Locos Tacos is part of parent company Yum! Brands' initiative to get the chain back into positive sales territory.
"What we think will get Taco Bell back on track is more category innovation," said Yum! CEO David C. Novak in a recent earnings call.
Taco Bell generates about 60 percent of Yum!'s domestic business.
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