How Taco Bell used a 25-year-old movie reference to enthrall fans at San Diego Comic-Con

The 'Demolition Man' Taco Bell recreation garnered 900 media placements and five-hour wait times.

Company: Taco Bell 
Campaign: Taco Bell 2032 x Demolition Man Pop-Up
Agency mix: Edelman (media relations); Cyrano Rox (experiential event support)
Duration: July 19-22

The futuristic utopian setting of "Demolition Man" predicted that Taco Bell would be the only restaurant chain to survive the "Franchise Wars." Driven by this reference, Taco Bell recreated the restaurant that appears in the 1993 cult classic for the 2018 Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Strategy
During the summer, Taco Bell decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the "Demolition Man" with a pop-up experience at Comic-Con. The goal was to engage fans, garner media attention, and drive hype around the re-release of Nacho Fries.

The "Demolition Man" idea perfectly tied into the fake trailer advertisement Web of Fries II: Franchise Wars, which the brand released earlier this summer to re-introduce Nacho Fries.

"The strategy was to tie back to a strong brand social insight with our marketing campaign to garner awareness and buzz," explained Matt Prince, senior manager of PR and brand experience at Taco Bell. "We targeted media across food, culture, lifestyle, sci-fi, and cinema."

Taco Bell also partnered with Warner Brothers to help facilitate the authenticity of the experience and avoid any potential copyright issues.

Tactics
The brand began teasing the event on social channels in late June.

The pop-up restaurant officially launched on July 19 and ran through July 21. The event was open to the public from 6 p.m. to midnight each night.

The experience featured a free four-course meal, the opportunity to purchase merchandise which tied back to the film, a bar with specialty cocktails, and a staff of valets, waiters, and hosts all dressed to match the film. Courses included the Crunchwrap Supreme Leader and Franchise Freedom Fries.

"We had social support leading up to the activation, as well as onsite coverage for fans who weren't in attendance to get a taste of what they were missing," said Prince.

The night after the pop-up experience ended, Taco Bell put together a highlight reel of the event and posted it to branded social channels.

As part of efforts to include those who couldn’t attend the pop-up, Taco Bell also offered fans the chance to stream "Demolition Man" free on FandangoNOW through the end of the July.

Results
The Taco Bell pop-up experience led to more than 900 media placements. Notable outlets that featured the activation included: Fox News, CNet, Gamespot.com, The Atlantic, and Comicbook.com.

"We had over 40 outlets come to the pop-up experience including Buzzfeed, Gizmodo, CNet, Yahoo, even a special appearance from star of the movie, Wesley Snipes," said Prince.

Wait times to get into the restaurant topped more than five hours during certain times over the weekend. Additionally, more than 30 media outlets claimed in coverage features that Taco Bell had the best brand activation at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

The brand also sold more than $50,000 in merchandise on-site in just three days.

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