Smart People Have a Stupid Focus Group About Taco Bell Breakfast
The New Corporate Breakfast?
"Convenience is king" seems to be the new marketing campaign for Taco Bell’s breakfast menu. As their slogan suggests, “a one-handed breakfast” is the modern-day solution for go-getters, multi-taskers, commuters and jugglers.
Ease of use is so important to Taco Bell that their latest commercial depicts young professionals leveraging the convenience of mobile breakfast to effortlessly enter their corporate office — holding a Crunchwrap in one hand, and waving their security badge with the other. Corporate office? Security badge? So after we “live más," “run for the border,” and “spice up the night” we also have to make sure we’re on time for our 9 a.m. conference call?
Well, if educated young professionals and their disposable incomes are now in the crosshairs of Taco Bell’s market research department, we thought we'd see what this demographic really thinks about eating eggs and waffles from Taco Bell. We hit the road, stopped at a drive through, and brought a few bags of breakfast over to some young software developers in Silicon Valley. Their reactions (and their idea of professional dress) might surprise you.
The Waffle Taco
“I wish I would have invented this,” said one participant upon unwrapping an egg and sausage filled Waffle Taco. “I would have been a millionaire." He’s probably right — the breakfast menu is propelling Taco Bell into record-breaking sales during the second quarter of 2014. “The eggs are a little chewy,” he added, “but in a good way.”
Tacos, burritos, hash browns, and bits of egg were spread across the table like it was fast food Thanksgiving, and to our participants, it was. These big-salary earners were so excited about receiving $3 worth of free breakfast, that pretty soon our conference space became standing room only. When one developer, squeezed into a corner, asked what the donut holes were, another piped up instantly with an enthusiastic response.
“They’re mini Cinibuns, only instead of a little frosting on the outside, there’s a lot of frosting on the inside.”
“Wow, it explodes in your mouth," said a startled developer on the opposite side of the table. “Creamier than I would have expected," added another ponderous participant as their eyes moved to the upper right corners of their sockets, as if trying to place a subtle property of the flavor profile.
“This seriously reminds me of this one summer, when I was six years old."
Speaking from a particularly messy corner of the conference table, another developer challenged the original premise of convenience. “I don’t know if I would even call this a one handed meal. There are eggs everywhere, I’m dropping sausage, there’s syrup dripping on my shirt." And that was hardly an isolated case. We were only ten minutes in and already it was clear this room was going to have be remodeled — or at least hosed down.
After leaning way back in their chair and looking introspectively towards the sky, another developer chimed in: “If a meteor hit the earth, I think the AM Grilled Taco would be the only thing to survive," presenting it’s Twinkie-esque semi-permanence as a positive attribute. Others agreed: it clearly boasted a certain durability. But what it promised in toughness, it may have lacked in flavor, as someone mentioned that the after taste remind them of a “campfire the next morning. Only in my mouth.”
After 20 minutes of eating, the originally boisterous and excited group began to slow down.
“We’re all going to be hurting in a an hour.”
“Nah man, that’s just withdrawals."
Up next: The verdict
To wake up the room, participants were asked to write some key terms on the white board that they felt would accurately represent their experience devouring a Grande Scrambler. "Smokey," "zesty," "saucy," and "surprising" were all heavily represented on the board. In fact, "surprising" was the theme of the day, with many developers finding themselves grappling with just how much they enjoyed an item they originally approached with skepticism.
Out of the fifteen items available on the breakfast menu, the Crunchwrap reigned supreme. The feedback was universally positive, with some participants beginning to barter with their neighbors like it was a middle school cafeteria. Some were so taken by the Crunchwrap, one member of our group even proposed to another that they get Taco Bell for lunch.
When we asked for final thoughts, there was a brief moment of reflection. It was clear the Taco Bell breakfast menu was an enormous hit with this demographic. Despite being smart enough to know better, and certainly being able to afford better, this was the food they grew up on, and this was the kind of novelty consumable they loved. Maybe Taco Bell hit it just right, as their 2014 profits suggest. Perhaps it’s not even about how the food looks, tastes or feels, perhaps, for this crowd, it was more about eating something that is silly, ridiculous and fun.
After another quiet moment passed, a previously silent developer spoke up from the far end of the table. “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never found themselves at a Taco Bell, before 11 a.m., with $8.66 in their pocket.”
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