Home Conscious Consumerism Taco Bell Thinks You’re Stupid: Try The Drive-Thru Diet!

Taco Bell Thinks You’re Stupid: Try The Drive-Thru Diet!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

As someone who works in marketing, I’m often analyzing something from the aspect of the company. Why would a company pay to put “this-particular-image” in my face? What are they trying to get me to do? Why does my reaction benefit them? Is it truly in my best interests to react to this in this particular fashion?

Let’s use that to discuss Taco Bell’s latest swindle, the “Drive Thru Diet.”

Now, after you’ve watched that, before I can even break this down to you, Taco Bell already gets it poppin’ in the fine print:

Drive-Thru-Diet® is not a weight-loss program. For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Taco Bell’s Fresco Menu can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food. For complete nutritional information please visit TacoBell.com

Oh, my heart.

See, to explain this briefly, the Drive-Thru Diet isn’t quite a diet in the same sense that Americans understand the term “diet.” To many of us, diet implies words like “temporary, quick, short-lived.” It leans more toward the understanding of “The Cabbage diet.” “The Lemonade Diet.” “The Cookie Diet.” Not as in “My regular daily diet consists of..” because that’s not what we’re all used to hearing. So when we hear “The Drive-Thru Diet,” it sounds more like “Oh, you mean I can eat cookies for breakfast and lunch and a regular dinner and still lose weight?” except replacing “cookies” with “Taco Bell.”

If you notice, the commercial says “Her experience is based on a 1,250 calorie per day diet.” Let me tell you – you can do a 1,250 calorie diet without Taco Bell. Actually, you can do it without ANY fast food. Is anyone going to tell you that, though? Of course not. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, Nutrisystem, Subway, and now Taco Bell… they’re all going to tell you, “Use this system, but I’m not going to tell you how to make this system work on your own without me.. because that would be money I couldn’t make off of you.” (Those of you who stick fast to those systems, this isn’t a knock at you. No need to defend them in the comments.)

So let’s look closer at the questions I asked in the beginning. Right now, we’re all making New Year’s Resolutions to be healthier. To eat better. To cut out the junk food. To spend less money at fast food restaurants. Wait — spend less money at fast food joints?! This will not do!

Enter Taco Bell’s marketing team… searhing for a way to improve upon Subway’s “Jared” phenom. You know, the fella that lost a ton of weight eating Subway sandwiches instead of actual home-cooked meals… only to gain it back in late ’09? Yeah, that one. They come up with Christine. Actually, Christine in a bikini with a gut, then Christine in a bikini hiding in some grass, then Christine in a slinky dress, and NOW we get Christine in the pants. Why is Taco Bell paying to put this particular image in my face?

Are they trying to calm my fears about Taco Bell getting in the way of me achieving my weight loss goals for my resolution? (Especially since the site asks me to “Make a Frescolution” and all.) Are they trying to convince me that I can still eat healthily even though I’m getting fast food?

What are they trying to get me to do? I’m a person who would love to eat better in the new year and cut out junk/fast food, but am not sure of how to go about it. Would this commercial convince me to stick with what I’ve been doing, so long as I order “something else?”

Why does my reaction benefit them? Here’s why: Studies show that if I can get you at least in the drive thru lane, I’ve already got your money. Guess what else – I can also convince you to ignore the “healthy menu” and get what you’ve always gotten. Why? Because of habit! If you’ve always crept in that drive-thru lane and bought the same big giant nacho order, how easy do you think it’s going to be to get you in the lane, anyway? That “healthy menu” isn’t what’s on your mind when you pull in, anyway. If I can give you a reason to come back? I can keep you from resolving to stay away entirely, and then I can eventually convince you to stick around. Take a look at that menu – the “healthy” options aren’t the largest photos on the drive-thru menu. That’s for a reason.

Is it truly in my best interests to react to this in this particular fashion? Let me rephrase that for you – is it in your best interest to believe that a healthy diet (as in, the foods you eat regularly) consists of regular ingestion of Taco Bell? Especially when it says on the page, “For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Fresco can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food?” They tell you basically everything you need to know to lose the weight without them, but they tack information onto it about how you can execute this with Taco Bell!

To put it mildly, the message that the viewer receives is “I can lose weight with this ‘Drive-Thru’ Diet.” Never mind the fact that she, apparently, lost the 54lbs over 2yrs – approx 27lbs per year – since she “…didn’t want to give up her fast food.” Is that kind of mentality one worth maintaining? I don’t think so. Personally, I believe it’s in one’s best interests to eat as far away from franchises as possible, but that’s me.

In closing (since I can’t say “In short,” ’cause this is anything BUT short), this is beyond stupid. It plays upon the insecurities of the consumer and treats them like marks, ready for the swindle – “You want to lose weight and not give up your fast food? We still gotcha back! Check out these tacos with no cheese or sauce!” – all while avoiding any claims of misrepresentation… because they told you to calorie count. They also told you these are not low-calorie foods, so take them at their word. Do your best to avoid it, and your body will thank you with more than 54lbs lost… and you’ll lose it in less than two years.

What are your thoughts about this? Have you seen the commercials? What did you think?

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Tracy January 3, 2010 - 2:38 AM

The funniest thing is that it’s being labeled the “Taco Bell Diet,” when it’s basically telling you to restrict calories and can fit a replacement item into your daily menu. As you stated, the problem is that NO ONE is going to go to Taco Bell to order this mess. If I take the time to go to TB, I’m going to get one of my trusty favorites. I would never suddenly decide to get a taco sans the cheese, sour cream, or other fatty goodness that I’ve been used to. At least the “Subway Diet” gave you some guidelines.

Here’s the “best” part of the TB Diet: “Fresco can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu.” 20 whole calories?! Well, hot damn! Are we talking about going from 100 to 80 or 450 to 430? If we are talking about the latter, 20 calories seriously won’t make a damn difference. I’d rather just take the “extra” 20 calorie hit and eat what I want.

Taco Bell needs to have a seat.

Rochelle Robinson January 3, 2010 - 8:55 PM

It’s a spin on the Chipotle diet http://www.chipotless.com

omni January 6, 2010 - 3:10 PM

i just dont get why everything has to be a “diet”, i eat at chipotle occassionally. I get a salad bowl, some veggies, black beans, and chicken. That doesnt mean Im on the chipotle “diet”, i just know better than to eat a giant ass cheese stuffed burritto if im managing my weight.

julie January 9, 2010 - 6:46 PM

I’ve been trying to ignore all diet commercials, and there are many this time of year. But if it took her two years to lose 57 pounds, and she’s consistently eaten 1250 calories/day (I would starve at that level), that’s a pretty sucky weight loss strategy.

Mr. Pottymouth April 21, 2010 - 1:40 AM


Someone who works in marketing AND is honest??? I can now die a happy man because I have turly seen everything.

Excellent analysis on the whole, oh so drawn out will it never end, Taco Hell ad campaigns designed for those with only one remaining brain cell. I really wouldn’t mind them trying to sell us crap but the level of deception that a 5 year old can see through… that’s just insulting.

Never stop publishing. A voice of sense is a rare thing on the internet these days!

Freda July 19, 2011 - 8:58 PM

I tried these new Fresco items when they came out last year. Not because I wanted to get on the ‘Taco Bell diet’, but because I saw they finally had something there I would eat!
Boy was I disappointed when I unwrapped my food. I took one bite and gave the rest to my dog. It didn’t even taste good.
I should have know better, but they got me.

LBC July 20, 2011 - 6:02 PM

What these wacko diets say to me–the Subway Diet, the Taco Bell Diet, whatever–is that there are a lot of people out there who just plain don’t understand and trust either themselves or food, and feel they have to blindly follow some gimmick. Even if the gimmick doesn’t make sense, because you can make a taco at home that tastes better and potentially has fewer calories than a Taco Bell taco.

I find that very sad.

Jocelyn May 29, 2012 - 11:57 AM

McDonald’s is doing the same thing with their happy meals. They have a cartoon commercial about a goat who was eating everything unhealthy and the family took him to McDonald’s to have a healthy happy meal. Such crap!!

Shannon June 16, 2012 - 5:29 PM

Couldn’t watch the video. It says “video is private.” (??)

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