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Where's the Beef? Taco Bell Sued Over 'Meat Concoction'

UPDATE: The Bell wins!

Turns out the stuff I used to turn to after a wild Saturday night–aka the Beef Burrito Supreme at Taco Bell–may not have much beef, so says a lawsuit filed in Alabama:

“Our government, through the USDA and FDA, provides definitions, standards and labeling guidelines for ‘ground beef’; What Taco Bell is representing on their restaurant menu as ‘ground beef’ does not meet any of those definitions, standards and labeling guidelines,” explains Beasley Allen attorney Dee Miles. “This product does not qualify to be considered ‘ground beef’ and many of the seasoning ingredients are in fact binders, fillers and coloring. These ingredients increase the overall volume of this product, reducing the actual ‘beef’; content per serving. It is against the law in this country to take someone’s money for a product that is misrepresented. This lawsuit seeks to put a stop to that type of conduct and practice,” he says.

via Beasley Allen Files Lawsuit Against Taco Bell on Behalf of All Consumers — MONTGOMERY, Ala., Jan. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ –.

One reason I stopped eating at Taco Bell was I noticed it increased my overall volume. But I digress.

Taco Bell chimes in with this response:

“Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value. We’re happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.”

What remains to be seen is how vigorously they’ll fight this allegation in the court of public opinion. Though this is certainly no finger in the chili or booger on the pizza, it can’t help the brand any if the suggestion that they aren’t using actual beef–or are using a lot of fillers–takes hold in the consumer mind. (The lawsuit’s use of the term “meat concoction” is going to be tough to overcome if it catches on.)

For the moment it appears they are weighing legal options. Their public response is (I assume) forthcoming….unless it truly is “We’ll see how this comes out in court.” That, my friends, is a dangerous proposition. Lawsuits take time, and in the interim between a court filing and a verdict, all that could be left of the Bell’s reputation may be an empty (taco) shell.

Without knowing if they have been caught doing something wrong or not, it’s tough to say what I’d do, other than be as transparent as legally possible as soon as possible. Tricky.

I’ll keep an eye on this one–at the very least their advertisements might get pulled or altered. In the meantime, assuming this lawsuit’s allegations are correct, what would you say if you were Taco Bell?

I had a comment from a loyal reader who fears this might change the future:

The Moneygrabbin' Power of Social Media

Okay, no huge revelation here, but an example of the power of social media. Yesterday I heard a song that I loved on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “The Spectrum” channel. I rarely listen to broadcast (music) radio anymore because I can’t stand the repetition or the mostly overproduced, heartless crap that passes for popular music today. That effectively cuts me off from a lot of new stuff–some of it probably pretty good. The Spectrum plays adult album rock and is a good place for me to hear the stuff I enjoy with a little of the new sprinkled in.

Well, a cool song I heard on The Spectrum got stuck in my head, so I searched for it on YouTube and found a pretty cool video. I liked it so much, I posted it on my Facebook page. Within a few hours, two of my friends commented that they, too, liked the song. One bought the single, another the entire “LP” (as he called it. Hey, we’re over 40).

Of course this isn’t my incredible power as a tastemaker at work. No–just me telling my circle of friends that I like something. My friends bought it because it’s a good song. However, with the fragmentation of media, they may never have heard it had I not recommended it. There in a nutshell is the power of social media.

So without further ado, Fitz and the Tantrums and their catchy tune Moneygrabber.

With this kind of word of mouth, Fitz and the Tantrums will definitely be grabbin’ some money.

The aRT of the RT: Enthusiasm Levels

Mike Brown has nice handwriting. RT that.

I often meet my friend Mike Brown, the guru over at the Brainzooming Group, for coffee. Actually, Mike doesn’t drink coffee and cannot abide a place that smells like coffee, yet somehow we manage to meet at a local coffee spot every now and again to talk business, collaboration, creativity and the absurdities of life in general.

Speaking of absurdities, Mike is pretty active on Twitter (as am I) and a while back we were discussing the Art of the Retweet, or “RT” as it’s known on Twitter. If you’re into Twitter, you know that when you see something pretty cool that might be of interest to your Tweeps (readers, followers, etc.) you “retweet” it.

Example:

RT: @PRWeekUS Poll: Did Ricky Gervais misrepresent the Golden Globes as a host? http://www.prweekus.com/online-polls/section/990/
RTs are nice, but aren’t always great at demonstrating your true level of enthusiasm. Sometimes when you RT, you’re just moving things along without fully reading it (come on, you know you do–at least sometimes) or with little thought. But, sometimes you want to really make sure people read what you’re broadcasting, so you add a comment at the end <in between brackets> like this:
RT @MEAndersFit Looking at Pilate’s Cross by J. Alexander Greenwood @A_Greenwood at #smashwords http://smashwords.com/b/6806 Cannot wait to read this book! <This rocks! Thanks!>
But Mike was thinking maybe we need to work out a few bracket comments to make sure people really smell what you’re steppin’ in. For example, if you’re jealous that a Tweep can write a blog post every day seemingly without effort:
RT @Brainzooming Blogging Challenges? Ideas for When You Find Blogging Difficult http://bit.ly/hLCaHJ #blogging #sm #writing #creativity <snarky>
Mike had some other good ones, like <gusto> for something you really dig, or <PR Hack> tweets I make on behalf of clients, or <by rote> or <not paying attention> for ahem, other posts you RT.
I still have the napkin he wrote them on. I’m not sure how to retweet the napkin with <gusto> but I’ll give it a try.
Next time, #hashtags and #browns.

How the News Media Can Frame an Issue

The long-awaited (yet largely ignored by the public as far as I can tell) Presidential Oil Spill Commission’s final report was issued last week, with a comprehensive examination of what happened before, during and after the fateful events on BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform. Certainly within the report there is plenty of fodder for Public Relations and crisis communications pros. One thing that struck me involves the way certain members of the media decided on a frame for their stories and stuck to it.

Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post picked out this nugget about CNN’s Anderson Cooper (emphasis mine):

From Chapter Five, page 139:

Local resentment became a media theme and then a self-fulfilling prophesy. Even those who privately thought the federal government was doing the best it could under the circumstances could not say so publicly. Coast Guard responders watched Governor Jindal — and the TV cameras following him — return to what appeared to be the same spot of oiled marsh day after day to complain about the inadequacy of the federal response, even though only a small amount of marsh was then oiled. When the Coast Guard sought to clean up that piece of affected marsh, Governor Jindal refused to confirm its location. Journalists encouraged state and local officials and residents to display their anger at the federal response, and offered coverage when they did. Anderson Cooper reportedly asked a Parish President to bring an angry, unemployed offshore oil worker on his show. When the Parish President could not promise the worker would be ‘angry,’ both were disinvited.

Cooper fired back:

“This unattributed statement is completely false . . . [the claim] that it was journalists who were encouraging residents and state and local leaders to ‘display their anger at the federal response’ is offensive.”

It’s interesting to me in that public relations pros are constantly taken to the woodshed by critics for our attempts to frame an issue (click here for an interesting exploration of frame Vs. spin)–yet here is a very prominent journalist who is (if true) apparently going beyond framing an issue but actually spinning it. I throw no stones, just making an observation. To be sure, we all do it in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously.

My question is: As humans are we necessarily–despite the appeals of our better angels–at the mercy of our own preconceptions? I don’t know. But I do know that even those we hold up as being objective can be subjective in their judgment of events, issues or policies.

The Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” –Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968)