Nothing pairs better with one of America’s beloved national treasures, the Liberty Bell, than some 99 cents crunchy tacos, right? Taco Bell thought so. That’s why in 1996, the fast food chain announced that they will be buying the Liberty Bell, in order to reduce the country’s debt, as well as the fact that “Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell. Now we’ve got the crown jewel of bells.”
Thankfully, the thousands of patriotic Americans that called in to complain about the dishonorable union were relieved to learned that it was just a marketing scheme, and the historical monument was certainly not up for sale. The event went down as one of the most memorable marketing stunts of the decade.
On the day of April 1st (which should have been a super dead giveaway), a full-page ad appeared in six major newspaper publications announcing that Taco Bell will be purchasing the Liberty Bell and will change the name to “Taco Liberty Bell.” They also clarified that the bell will spend half the time in its home in Philadelphia and the other half in the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine.
This grand declaration brought on a massive negative response. People were calling into both the Taco Bell headquarters as well as Philadelphia’s National Park Service to find out if the ad was true. Apparently, Philadelphia wasn’t on the joke either, since the park’s spokespeople were also surprised at the news.
Then at noontime on the same day, Taco Bell issued a second press release, revealing that it had all been an April Fools joke and there was never any purchase of the Liberty Bell. However, some people were still bitter about the use of the national monument, which symbolizes those who have bravely fought for this country’s freedom, as part of a playful joke. Then again, many observers have pointed out that the Liberty Bell was incorporated to several other product advertisements over the years, including insurance, beer, and even board games.
The profits clearly spoke for itself. Taco Bell spent about $300,000 on the campaign, but raked in about $25 million worth of free publicity. Sales-wise, the restaurant had an increase in revenue by $500,000 on the same day, and then $600,000 the following day.
Maybe the fact that Taco Bell was now in ownership of a national monument that makes its tacos even more appealing, or just because people wanted to get in on the hype too, but no one can deny the marketing success in this story. Entrepreneur magazine included it in its list of “Top 10 Successful Marketing Stunts,” and Museum of Hoaxes named it number 4 on its list of “Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”
With so many more available national monuments still out there, we wonder which company will be next to make an extravagant purchase … Carl’s Jr and the Statue of Liberty, perhaps?
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