Greek Marketing Lessons from a Burned Down Taco Bell


by Alex Taylor

Unfortunately, this isn’t my first time writing about lessons learned from Taco Bell. A time ago, when I still worked at my fraternity HQ, I wrote about Doritos Locos Tacos. Click to read my early attempts of blending fast food into my job. 

Even though times have changed, I still love DLTs. Given my slowing metabolism, I can’t eat them nearly as often. Also, I rarely am up past 1am for Fourth Meal any more, but if Taco Bell wants to throw a few coupons my way, hit me up on Twitter.

Today, I write with a heavy heart and teardrops on my keyboard. My beloved taco bell, the one closest to my college, burned down. The same Taco Bell that let me ‘Live Mas’ for all four years, and a few trips back to my alma mater is no more. If you spend much time on the internet you might have seen that it has garnered some attention. This post, containing a friend from my hometown made it to the front page of Reddit:

The 24 hour Taco Bell that got me and my friends through college tragically burned down last night. We're coping the best we can.

Unfortunately, for Alec, I’m not here to talk about his internet fame. I’m here to talk about the subsequent fall out since. Check the local news for what happened since. No really. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO.

How does a shuttered late night food option garner nearly 100 people actually show up for a vigil? I believe its a few key pieces that brought a diverse groups of people together to remeber our beloved taco bell. 

People remember how you make them feel. Let’s not pretend that Taco Bell is the pinnacle of culinary excellence. However, I like many others, remember the late nights going through the drive through at Taco Bell. I recall cars being lined out the parking lot, and it’s partly due to lack of options, but for many they remember the line more than the food. Yelling 4 different orders out the window for a few years results in you knowing your closest friends orders. The hilarious recaps of the evenings antics, or just taking a few minutes away from another long night of studying, Taco Bell served as an oasis. Not so much the inside, they had the door barred with a spare chair starting at midnight. 

For you, as you think about your organization and its interactions on campus, it matters how you make people feel. Every interaction does matter, and when your chapter has hundreds of members, it can be easy for people to have a bad opinion from one interaction. However, many groups have repeated bad interactions and after a lifetime of negativity, stereotypes develop. 

A few questions to consider: how do non-Greek students and alumni view your community? How do local community members view the Greek community? What has happened that reinforced that? What do you do that tells a different or better story of Greek Life?

Return on Investment matters… a LOT. Not to continue to bash T-Bell, but you can feast for no more than $7. Tack on a Baja Blast, and you’re wined and dined for under $9. Also, if you are a Baja Blast hater, do not @ me. 

For many of our chapters and groups, we fail to show true ROI for people as they join chapters. I’m a firm believer that your budget shows your values, so I encourage all reading this (HQs, Universities, Student Leaders) to do a percentage breakdown of your expenditures. For our chapters, when we fail to show ROI, we have people leave. Or, they become the members that only show up to the “fun stuff” because they think money buys them these specific rights. If you’re chapter is charging thousands a=of dollars a year, I sincerely hope you have true ROI for members. Graduating members should be leaving with every single benefit that was sold to them during the recruitment process. 

Your truest self gathers the fiercest followers. Here at Innova and Phired Up, much of what we teach and bring to campuses all around the country is this idea of Social Excellence. I really view Social Excellence as being your truest self at all times. 

Taco Bell never tried to be something they are not. It’s about delivering filling, delicious food at wee-hours of the morning, when folks “need” Taco Bell. Our society becomes more filtered, photoshopped every day. It’s easy for our organizations to think we have to make the coolest video, have the most Instagram followers, or be “top-tier”. What your organizations needs it to be it’s true self. Showcase the unique personalities, and tell the real story of what’s happening in your chapter. 

If we want to take back the story of Greek Life, we’ve got to tell a better, more true story. Parts of the reputation our organizations have developed are truly earned. For all the chapters and communities wanting to tell a better story, we’re here to help. Let’s start taking back our reputation in 2018.