Social media case study: Taco Bell gets fans using the new taco emoji on Twitter

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After a long battle to get a taco added to the emoji keyboard, Taco Bell celebrated its victory in style by creating the #TacoEmojiEngine which was built directly into Twitter. All people needed to do was tweet the new taco emoji with one of the other 1,295 emojis @tacobell to receive a personalized GIF combining them. The campaign generated more than half a million tweets in the first 5 days and won a Cannes Lions Gold award.

Case study summary

• Taco bell created a petition to get an official ‘taco’ emoji

• Celebrated victory with a special emoji engine campaign that generated customised ‘mash-up’ images

• Received half a million tweets in 5 days

The challenge

In November 2014 Taco Bell submitted a petition in which they demanded Unicode Consortium (the organization that regulates the coding standards for text including emojis) to create a special taco emoji. The petition received 33,000 signatures, and the Unicode Consortium unveiled a taco emoji in June 2015.

Once the taco emoji was finally added to keyboards on all mobile phones, Taco Bell wanted to get people using the emoji, as well as celebrate their victory.

The solution

The idea to celebrate the taco emoji release and get users to engage with the fast food taco restaurant was simple: one taco emoji = 1,295 reasons to tweet @TacoBell.
Working with agency Deutsch LA, Taco Bell’s goal was to make sure every single emoji – all flags, all iOS exclusive emojis, and even emojis that have existed since 1991 – have a response.

The team built a ‘Taco Emoji Engine’ directly into Twitter. No apps to download, no extra websites to visit – all a user needed was an emoji keyboard and a Twitter account.

The Taco Emoji Engine took four weeks planning and nine weeks of asset production. To make all 1,295 pieces of custom content, the team partnered with 77 artists around the world to create GIFs, pictures, illustrations, music, products, and more.

How it works

People who tweeted the taco emoji with another emoji at the brand's account, for instance, would automatically be sent back a photo or GIF mashing up the two images. For example, if people tweeted a picture of a taco and smiley face, they would then receive an image of a taco wearing sunglasses. In another scenario, if you tweeted an image of a taco and a satellite, they’d send back a GIF of a satellite shooting out tacos.

The team also ran an in-store campaign that was more closely aimed at Instagram hoping its core group of teens and millennials would share the pop-art-oriented wrappers on Instagram. "They're all meant to be fun, almost collectible pieces. I think they're going to be highly Instagramable," said Marisa Thalberg, chief brand engagement officer for Taco Bell.

"This is about the taco having its rightful place in the official emoji keyboard—this wasn't about us doing a branded thing, this was about the taco itself," Thalberg said. "We had our hopes raised and dashed a few times along the way, but ultimately Unicode came through, and its here."

The results

Overall, the campaign generated huge interest, with more than half a million tweets in the first five days. The ad also picked up a prestigious Cannes Lions Gold award at the 2016 festival, and most importantly, it has given us a reason to use the taco emoji.

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