Doritos Locos Tacos Campaign in US vs Traces of Horse Meat In UK


Today, Taco Bell (a subsidiary of Yum! Brands) reached the pinnacle of its biggest marketing campaign in history to launch its Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos. But late last week, news came out of the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency that beef used in Taco Bells there tested positive for horse meat. In response, here’s what Taco Bell posted on its “domestic” website in the News Releases section:

Mar 01, 2013

Irvine, CA – March 1, 2013

Our domestic restaurants have not been, and will not be, impacted because we do not use any meat from Europe. We stand for quality and we use 100% premium beef.  Like all beef in the United States, ours is USDA inspected and then passes our own 20 quality checkpoints. To learn more about our ingredients and food facts, please visit us at

And here’s what was posted on March 2 to the company’s Taco Bell UK Facebook page:

Thank you all for your comments and support over the last 24 hours. We want to apologise to all of our customers that this has happened. Food quality remains our highest priority, and we have tested and certified that all beef for sale in our restaurants meets the strict standards we demand. We’d also like to let you know that we’ll be receiving new deliveries of beef by tomorrow for all of our Taco Bell UK restaurants. 

Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos

What’s interesting is that there are two different messages. The first, aimed at Americans, is an attempt to reassure customers that they use 100 percent premium beef. The second, aimed at UK customers, contains an apology and explains that they are receiving new deliveries.

Two different messages aimed at two different audiences worked fine in the 20th century and even the early 21st century. But today, it’s easy for consumers, the media and other influencers to find both statements and come to their own conclusions.
I get that when you are dealing with different cultures that messages might differ slightly. But if you are a global company like Yum! Brands and your reputation is challenged in one country, it’s not a good idea to try to isolate potentially negative information or to use different messaging about the same subject. The world is too small and information moves too fast to expect no one will notice.

What do other marketing/PR/advertising folks think? What do you think as a consumer? And, do you think the horse meat news will impact sales of the new tacos product globally? Please leave a comment below or Tweet #RichKleinCrisis.

Update, 2:30 pm EDT, March 6:
Apparently, there’s a shortage of the new taco product after the company announced it would start selling them a day early.

5 Crisis Management Lessons from The Crisis Show in 2012

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Since starting The Crisis Show in June 2012, I’ve spent each week combing through some of the most high profile crisis situations facing companies, governments and individuals in the public eye.

Here’s some crisis management takeaways that we hope are wake-up calls in 2013:

1 – Nearly all the reputation damage from crisis situations we analyzed could have been minimized if leaders were more decisive in the earliest stages of their crises.

2 — Many executives and government officials failed to express appropriate emotions in their media statements and when facing journalists in person. And most have the resources to get top level media training!

3 — Despite having significant social media presence, global companies often failed to communicate on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to update critical audiences about their crisis or, worse, they promoted products on these sites even when people had been harmed or when their product was recalled.

4 — Some big companies turned all spokesperson duties over to litigation attorneys, who might win in court years later, but who can be tone deaf when it comes to protecting a company’s reputation in the short term.

5 — Organizations did not accept responsibility for their actions or inactions early in a crisis and failed to offer heartfelt apologies. Sometimes, attorneys warn clients not to apologize because it could cost them significantly in lawsuits. Other times, it’s just the head-in-the-sand corporate culture. But people notice — and take their business to competitors.

The start of a new year is an ideal time to assess vulnerabilities and brewing crisis situations that can harm reputation before they spin out of your control.

Wishing everyone peace, happiness and prosperity in 2013.

–Rich Klein