Del Taco’s Food Fight Viral Marketing Misfires

Del Taco has launched a new viral campaign called Food Fight Fiesta where you can choose one of their food items to virtually throw at a friend. Here’s how it works: You select the food item (burrito, taco, nachos, etc.) you want to throw. Then, you enter your pal’s email and a personalized message. An email arrives looking like this:


Subject: Let’s do lunch.

Hey, are you hungry? Check this out.


The link takes you to the site where the food item is thrown at you and splats across the screen. A hand wipes the screen and then you get the personalized message your friend wrote and are asked if you want to retaliate.

I gotta be honest, I don’t know exactly what to think about this one.

On the upside, it positively shows the products – until they are splattered across your screen, of course – which is gross. But, that is the point because the kids this is targeting do like gross. (I’m not too sure even kids will find the splats appetizing though and ultimately, Del Taco does want their food to appear appetizing, right? But, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the gross-lovers out there). More good points: If successful, it will enable the brand to collect emails of senders and receivers and it is viral in nature because it is designed to be shared – always good.

On the down side, the email comes off as spammy. If I got that email from a friend, I wouldn’t click the link because I would assume it was a virus. Everything from the subject line to the “are you hungry, check this out” bit sounds like SPAM. I think this may be a problem for Del Taco. My friends simply do not talk like that and it’s not enticing or funny or personal enough to make me click.

Similarly, the full url would make me extremely suspicious as most SPAM emails include a full link just like that. At best, I would email my friend and ask if they sent it to me. At worst, I would delete it assuming it was SPAM.

Compare, if you will, this to the Levi’s UnbuttonYourBeast campaign, which you know I love. When I sent that one to a friend, he got this:


Subject: Do you dare unbutton my beast?

There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, but I don’t want to freak you out. That’s why I’m sending my beast to do my dirty work.

Happy early bday darlin.


click here to unbutton my beast


So, the subject line is still pre-programmed, but it does sound goofy enough for my friends to think I am sending them something funny. (Really, who says “do lunch” anymore?)

And, notice – even though the first part is also pre-programmed copy, it’s funny and interesting. It doesn’t sound like one-size fits all SPAM. Plus – and most important – my little Happy Bday note was included to reinforce that this is personal not SPAM.

Finally, instead of a full link you get more of an ecard link like the ones that read “click here to view your ecard.” This is just more trustworthy than a full url, in my opinion.

And, of course you know I think that Sir Reginald Mighty Pants with his pre-recorded message is just plain funnier than food getting splattered across my screen – but again, I do concede that’s a matter of personal humor.

On top of everything else, the Food Fight site routinely experienced technical issues delivering the message: “Connection to media server failed. Please try back later.” This happened at least a dozen times. At first, I thought it was my web connection, but no other flash-heavy site had the problem and the message was within the design of the Del Taco site, so clearly there is a bug. The downside there is people will not come back later. Patience is a virtue that does not exist online.

So, I guess my thoughts are this: Del Taco came really really close to good viral here. IF the email had not appeared so SPAM-like and the site hadn’t had bugs, I probably would have called it a winner (conceding that I’ve never been one for gross-out-humor). I still say a QSR should always aim to make their food appealing and appetizing, but I could see tweens really loving the splats.

It’s a very nice effort and if Del Taco were able to fix the email in time, it could prove quite successful. What do you think? Am I off the mark here?

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