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How Taco Bell Plans To Fill The YouTube-Shaped Hole In Its Digital Media Strategy

The brand aims to live más with longform video.

Ryan Rimsnider, Taco Bell’s senior manager of social strategy, is proud of the work that his team does. The brand’s Instagram is a thing of beauty, its Twitter account is full of quirky animated gifs from its #TacoEmojiEngine, it allowed people to turn their heads into a giant, horrifying crispy taco on Snapchat for Cinco de Mayo. But when it comes to YouTube, Taco Bell somehow forgot how to live más.

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That’s something Rimsnider is proud to be correcting now, as it launches a huge YouTube-based campaign for longform video that begins today and will continue with at least 40 pieces of content in 2017.

“We were falling into the same trap that a lot of other brands are falling into, where YouTube becomes a bit of a catch-all for your advertising,” Rimsnider says. “Maybe there’s some one-off company videos, but there’s no real cadence for original, serialized programming coming from the brand. But because we have that kind of authentic connection to the community already, and we have credibility in terms of people already talking about us, we’re like–well, shit, let’s contribute a bit more.”

What Rimsnider is referring to is a fact backed by data his team discovered in researching YouTube: Namely, that in the vast YouTube food space, Taco Bell is mentioned or incorporated in two percent of the content–about 750 million views of Taco Bell-related menu hacks, homemade attempts to recreate Taco Bell recipes, rap songs expressing the artist’s love of the Bell, and more.

With that in mind, the first series that Taco Bell is launching on YouTube is “Taco Tales”–a six-episode web series that features re-enactments of people’s adventures in retrieving Taco Bell with comedians and YouTube personalities in the starring roles. The series was created in partnership with L.A.-based content studio Madison + Vine, and will be followed up with another six-episode run of a Taco Bell clip show that uses the content that already existed from Bell enthusiasts, with the participation of the creators, in a The Soup or Tosh.O-style format. From there, the possibilities are broad–they might pursue a travel show, or a game show, all pegged to a Taco Bell theme.

“We’ll do some different things, drawing on this kind of episodic and serialized programming schedule that we see out there on the Netflixes of the world,” Rimsnider says. “It’s really about how we harness the power of the YouTube community and the fans of Taco Bell, to really serve as a connective tissue and help them tell awesome stories.”

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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