Why Taco Bell’s Pop-Up Hotel Was a Brilliant Marketing Play
Sure, they got millions in free advertising, but there’s more
Did you hear about the mind-blowingly brilliant Taco Bell Hotel?
In May 2019, Taco Bell announced they were going to open a four-day-only pop-up hotel, “The Bell,” (in Palm Springs) to serve its loyal fan base.
But that’s not the real reason Taco Bell did it…
The marketing team at Taco Bell dreamed up this amazing idea for one simple reason — they knew it would gain a TON of attention, positively elevate their brand, cost very little to pull-off (the key here), and generate millions in FREE advertising.
Here are just a few headlines around The Bell’s opening last month:
- “Taco Bell’s pop-up hotel was fully booked in two minutes” by Yahoo Finance
- “Taco Bell Cuts a Ceremonial Ribbon Made from Hot Sauce Packets, Opens Boutique Hotel” by Good Morning America
- “There’s a Taco Bell Resort Coming to California This Summer” by People
Real quick, does the Taco Bell Hotel idea sound cool, amazing, disgusting or head-scratching to you?
Trust me, that’s why their ingenious marketing team did it. There is no middle ground here. No one has a neutral opinion on this. Most likely, you are laughing — thus, a positive brand reinforcement. And if you aren’t laughing, you are clicking on a media-generated story to validate your disgust.
Either way, Taco Bell wins.
But wait, there’s more!
You have to read my top 10 list of totally bat-shit-crazy offerings The Bell gave to its most fervent guests — and how the media took the bait to deliver a MONSTER ROI for Taco Bell.
So what did the Taco Bell Hotel offer its fans? Here are my top 10 favorite things they pulled off (get ready for an abundance of puns):
10. Free Taco Bell, available whenever you wanted; unlimited menu items available for room service and at pool-side — and it was even served by their head executive chef.
9. During happy hour, guests enjoyed a twist on the classic Taco Bell menu including “the Avocado Toast-ada and diablo puffs.”
8. Crazy Taco Bell themed decor throughout the property, including hot sauce pool floaties, hot sauce yoga mats, and hot sauce bed pillows.
7. If the other hotel amenities weren’t enough, you could even take a break from all the eating and join a relaxing sunrise yoga class while using a hot sauce themed yoga mat.
6. Taco Bell decked-out bikes available for guests to enjoy the Palm Springs heat (Heat! See what I did there?).
5. The “Taco Shop” — this gift store gave fans the ability to buy Taco Bell-themed sunglasses, swimsuits, and other merchandise.
4. Live nightly concerts on the pool’s “Feed the Beat” stage, including a performance by Wallows, FLETCHER, Whethan, and Tate Tucker.
3. A Mountain Dew Baja Blast inspired “freeze” lounge to escape the hot Palm Spring temperatures.
2. Hot-sauce layered synchronized swimmers entertaining their guests while they lounged by the pool (probably gawking).
1. Taco Bell themed spa services, including Baja Blast manis and cinnamon twist braids.
Oh, there is one more ingenious marketing move the Taco Bell team planned before they opened The Bell — they invited the smartest and most powerful media influencers in the game to stay and report on the experience.
Why? Well, these influencers would do what they do best: write about it, snap selfies, and constantly post videos of the hilarious scene at The Bell Hotel.
How much did that influencer media exposure cost Taco Bell? The price of a room!
Could Taco Bell’s “influencer” strategy have backfired with negative exposure? Of course — but it was worth the risk.
The result? 99.9% of the social media influencers and reporters posted glowing (and funny) viral videos and/or wrote the exact story Taco Bell wanted to be told.
Taco Bell’s Chief Brand Officer, Marisa Thalberg, stated it perfectly: “The Bell stands to be the biggest expression of the Taco Bell lifestyle to date. It will be fun, colorful, flavorful and filled with more than what our fans might expect. Also, just like some of our most sought-after food innovation, this hotel brings something entirely new for lucky fans to experience and enjoy.”
Whether you love it, hate it or wonder what the hell is going on with this world today…Taco Bell made history.
Here is what you can learn from this:
- It doesn’t cost much to be fun, authentic and outrageous with your marketing. Your brand will improve and so will your bottom line because it will make a deep connection with your customers. Take a chance, stop being paralyzed with fear, and go for it.
- If you are a business owner trying to improve your marketing, here is some quick advice — the most innovative marketing in the world right now is occurring in the fast food and beer industry.
- Another outrageously interesting outlier industry to study to improve your marketing? Politics. Pay attention to the 2020 presidential campaigns currently underway. Not from a policy standpoint, but from a marketing standpoint. Political marketing is solely focused on building loyal fans (voters) so a candidate can win. This win-or-die mentality creates some wildly innovative marketing.