Taco Bell Is Experimenting With New Marketing Vehicle: Lyft

Fast-food chain Taco Bell is teaming with ride-sharing firm Lyft to offer passengers a “Taco Mode” in the Lyft app for requesting rides between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. that include a stop at a Taco Bell drive-through. The option will be tested around Newport Beach, California the next few weeks, and will likely expand nationally in 2018. “I kind of think of this like inverse delivery — like we’re delivering you to Taco Bell,” said Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer. “You’re being delivered to the food as opposed to having to get in your own car and drive.”

“While Taco Bell offers delivery to customers and advertises the locations of its restaurants through the navigation app Waze, partnering with a ride-sharing company represents a new type of ‘experience innovation,’” said Thalberg, as reported by The New York Times.

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The new venture is targeting the growing number of younger people sharing rides via services such as Lyft and Uber, especially at night.

Neither Lyft nor Uber have policies for drivers regarding passengers requesting fast-food stops. However, based on discussion forums, such requests raise concerns with drivers, primarily due to the potential mess that passengers will make in the vehicles. Thalberg said that amusing tweets and social media posts on the subject inspired the partnership with Taco Bell.

Lyft has launched partnerships with others before, including Delta and Starbucks, but this will be the first venture in which Lyft will be “actually fulfilling a ride experience for a brand,” explained Melissa Waters, Lyft’s head of marketing.

“We will allow drivers to opt in to that so we can make sure we understand their full experience, and the customers can get the full delight of opting into ‘Taco Mode,’” she said. “Then we can fully understand how everything works before we roll out more broadly in Southern California, then more broadly nationally.”

If successful, this approach could spark a new trend in cross promotions that is based more on the customer experience than traditional branding and advertising.

According to NYT, “Taco Bell is not paying Lyft for the deal, which has been in the works for almost a year, Ms. Waters said. The companies are looking at the venture as ‘cocreating an experience together,’ which cannot be evaluated the way one might look at traditional marketing efforts like television commercials and billboards, she said.”