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Who would have ever thought that fast-food Mexican chain Taco Bell, faced with sagging sales in 2011, would find life again in a taco with a Doritos-flavored shell? The Doritos Locos Taco was launched in March of 2012, and with more than 200 million units sold, it has become the chain’s best-selling new product ever, even helping to lift profits for Yum! Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company, by 23 percent. The company credits much of the DLT’s success to marketing campaigns using Instagram and Twitter. Below, Taco Bell CMO Brian Niccol on what he’s learned from letting the customers tell the story:

"The way we thought about launching it was, What’s the story? We wouldn’t have sold 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in ten weeks if all we did was say, It’s a new product and you’re going to love it because it’s now made with Doritos. We really listened in a different way for this program, to what people were tweeting and saying on Facebook. And that’s how we got our launch execution. We found out this kid drove 900 miles to Ohio get a hold of a DLT during the market testing, and it became inspiration for the commercial.

"It’s been a real breakthrough for us, in terms of turning our brand into an experience around stories shared. Most recently, we’ve got an ad on TV that is told through all the Instagram pictures that everybody is taking of the DLT, and we’ve done Twitter campaigns where we post people’s tweets about the DLT on billboards in Times Square and Sunset Blvd.

"With the DLT we’ve proven to ourselves that if you can let go of some of the control, then good things can happen. And that’s changed things here at the office. Since the the DLT success, we’ve knocked down three conference rooms and created a new social-mobile listening room, where we’ve got the largest TV screens I’ve ever seen keeping track of what people are saying about our brand every day and everywhere.

"Once the idea is no longer just a Taco Bell idea and becomes the customer’s thing, it’s almost like they’re going to socialize for us. They own it. They get convicted about it. The next thing you know, they’re telling their friends they gotta go try it. So the second you can get it to move from, we’re telling you should go try this, to consumers actually advocating for it, that’s when the brand moves into an experience that is worth you repeating."

More Lessons for 2013 from some of today's most innovative business thought leaders here.

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