Reuters’ Nichola Groom gets a marketing exec to tell us that not finding an E.coli source isn’t good for Taco Bell’s business:
Confusion surrounding the source of an E.coli outbreak linked to Taco Bell will make it harder for the Mexican-style restaurant chain to reassure customers that its food is safe and could prolong a damaging sales slowdown.
“Nobody knows what’s going on here,” Jack Trout, president of marketing strategy firm Trout & Partners said. “This makes it a very hard crisis to handle because it’s a moving target.”
Trout compared Taco Bell’s situation to the more straightforward tampering issue that Johnson & Johnson faced with its Tylenol brand in 1982.
“Everyone knew exactly what that was,” he said. “It was a fixed event.”
It’s never good to have your company mentioned in the same breath as Johnson & Johnson during their cyanide trouble. The restaurant execs must be living in “Taco Hell.” Things will really heat up if someone dies from the food poisoning.
Bob Morse at Social Media Toolbox thinks Taco Bell could have saved the $100,000 it spent on a full-page USA Today ad by publishing a weblog. It wouldn’t hurt. Morse is right that “Leveraging the social media channel is fast, enables feedback,” and “is a heck of a lot cheaper.” What really would help Taco Bell is finding the source of the bacteria and fixing that so customers aren’t scared of eating there.
Taco Bell and its parent Yum Brands (YUM) haven’t had a few good days. Last week, customers in the Northeast came down with E. coli. At first health officials thought the source was green onions which made the faux-Mexican restaurant chain to toss out their nationwide supply. Now, further tests find green onions weren’t the source. To make things worse the Washington Post reports:
Meanwhile, nearly three dozen people have fallen ill with symptoms consistent with E. coli infection after eating at a Taco John’s restaurant in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
YUM stock has taken a 6% hit since the news came out. Uncertainly of the E. coli source won’t help it.