A phone call at 1 a.m. isn’t something I’d normally pick up, even from a good friend or a semi-close relative.
Once my head hits the pillow and I plug my phone into the wall charger that never quite stretches far enough, I’m done. Goodbye, world. See ya in six hours.
Recently, however, there was one phone call that had me waiting up far past my bedtime. I was one of the few, the proud, the Taco Bell breakfast phone holders
. I was not
going to miss the chance to win a $100 gift card to the fast-food restaurant I hadn’t visited in the past six months. I could buy 99 bean burritos, for cripes sake!
I’m a sucker for a good social media contest. So, when a Facebook friend posted they’d received a Taco Bell breakfast phone in the mail because they were a Twitter “influencer,” I knew I had to get my hands on one.
As a part of the brand’s rollout of its new breakfast menu
, Taco Bell chosen 1,000 super fans from Twitter and mailed them a Samsung T404G phone from HipCricket (according to Mashable
). Breakfast phone holders would receive calls and text messages from their burner phones leading them on social media challenges with the chance to win big prizes.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of these people—yet. A simple tweet to Taco Bell caught their attention and before I could say, “waffle taco” three times fast, my phone was in the mail and arrived on my doorstep in two days
Giddy with excitement, I ripped into the miniature box and charged up my breakfast phone, which resembled the first cell phone I ever got way back in seventh grade—sliding keyboard and all. My first message warned that my breakfast phone could ring at any moment and that I should keep it with me always, “even while you sleep.” At least they warned me:
Each social media challenge came by the way of a phone call and recorded message, instructing me to tweet or Instagram the answer to a question or take part in creative challenges, like creating a haiku about the Waffle Taco.
We were given four hours to complete a challenge, and a certain number of entries would be chosen to win prizes ranging from the absurd to the absurdly amazing. Waffle Taco air fresheners, A.M. Crunchwrap bed sheets, Waffle Taco button-downs, gift cards, and even a trip to California to visit a seaside Taco Bell. Of course, I wanted it all.
The phone calls started coming about once a day, grew to two daily, and by the end of it all, Taco Bell was calling me about three or four times a day. I was totally hooked—and I wasn’t alone. I tried to keep up with the fervor the other 1,000+ breakfast phone holders had, but I was struggling.
The memes, the videos, the musical numbers—people were crazy about their Taco Bell phone. They were spending hours trying to impress the God-like presence of Taco Bell, now so much closer than even our Twitter screens.
The brand had a direct line straight to our pockets, and this got me thinking: Could this be future of brands? Companies nudging in to our personal lives so much that we are waiting by the phone for a text or obsessively refreshing our Instagram account for a new comment? Do we want brands so personified that we feel guilty if we miss a call from them?
You can hardly call Taco Bell sneaky about their tactics. Especially in my case; I literally asked for it—and I obliged by helping create the massive amount of user-generated content that came from the experience.
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Through the breakfast phone campaign, Taco Bell became more than just a brand or fast-food joint. It became a friend—that one friend that calls at odd times and is trying to get you to help with their social media campaign—but, nevertheless, a friend.
Taco Bell succeeded in what many brands try to do and consistently fail. They made it personal. They made it fun. They made me a fan.
And I’ve got the Waffle Taco hoodie to prove it:
Cody Permenter is a PR account executive at The Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based creative agency specializing in non-traditional public relations, social media and experiential marketing. He is also a freelance writer, covering social media and technology. Read more of his work on the agency's blog, where a version of this story originally appeared.