Cheesy Marketing: The New Taco From Taco Bell
LOOKING FOR the latest in product design? The spirit of American innovation? Forget about the new iPad. Consider, instead, the Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell.
In case you somehow missed the $75 million advertising campaign, the new product, unveiled with fanfare late last week, is a standard Taco Bell concoction, wrapped in a big, orange, shell-shaped Nacho Cheese Dorito. Price: Starting at $1.29, the better to buy three! Calories: 170-200 apiece, depending on whether you order regular or “supreme.” Sodium: Think salt domes.
In a sense, you have to give Taco Bell credit for truth in advertising. Unlike the many unhealthy foods that are posing as health foods these days — think super-processed cookies in 100-calorie pouches — the Doritos Locos Taco offers few illusions or false pieties (though it is, rather pointlessly, topped with reduced-fat sour cream).
On the other hand, it’s odd that, just when the national mood is shifting toward health and sustainability, when fast food chains are announcing demands for humanely raised chicken and beef, when Paula Deen’s Type 2 Diabetes is fodder for “Saturday Night Live,” Taco Bell would stake its turnaround on the ultimate junk food.
But maybe willful ignorance is precisely the attitude Taco Bell wants to project. In truth, when you examine nutrition data on the company website, the Doritos Locos Taco is no worse for you than the rest of the menu. It just sounds more disgusting, which is part of its appeal: A taco to eat out of spite.
In recent years, the health-and-sustainability craze has sparked a counter-movement, exemplified by KFC’s bold move to use fried chicken as a substitute for bread, or Friendly’s idea about wedging a burger between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. I recently discovered a product called “bacone”: strips of bacon wrapped into a cone shape, filled with cheese, hash browns, and scrambled eggs, topped with country gravy and a biscuit. It was invented in 2009. In a sense, this is a standard American response: When the ground rules change, you can evolve or you can double down. (This seems the metaphor, at times, for the GOP primary campaign.)
But Taco Bell is also appealing to an individualistic strain, the type that chafes when sugared drinks disappear from soda machines and frets about the line between modest encouragement and the nanny state. It’s true that people are responsible for what they consume, and for managing their own temptation. I know that when I eat one Dorito, I inevitably eat 25. That’s why I try not to keep them in the house.