Taco Bell Blacks Out Its Social Sites to Launch Mobile App

Nothing on Twitter, Facebook and TacoBell.com Except Download Link

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Taco Bell has gone dark.

As part of the launch of its mobile-ordering and payment app today, Taco Bell has blacked out its social- media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and even its website. The idea is to play up the announcement and attract attention with a Twitter feed, Facebook page and website all showing nothing but a black screen as of this morning. Each of those pages, the company said, will only offer a link to the app download, which will be available for both iOS and Android phones.

The chain also hopes to prompt conversation with its #onlyintheapp hashtag. That hashtag is meant to illustrate that customers at Taco Bell can now view and select specific ingredients for their food with the app in a way they previously weren't able to, according to a statement.

Taco Bell is also touting that it's the first fast-food chain to offer mobile payment and ordering in the restaurants and in drive-thrus. In the stores, for instance, the company said that there will be a separate pick-up line for app orders.

"Today as food culture changes and generations grow up with smartphones, our customers seek restaurant experiences that fit their lifestyle," said Taco Bell President Brian Niccol in a statement. "We believe mobile ordering and payment is the biggest innovation since the drive-thru. Our new mobile ordering app is just the beginning of how we're using technology to break down the walls of our restaurants and become more transparent with our customers about our food."

For the app, Taco Bell is also launching a TV spot created by its lead creative agency, Interpublic's Deutsch. Publicis Groupe's Digitas created the app and the digital campaign, which includes the blackout. In-store and packaging was done by Interpublic's FCB.

The company said that it's been developing the app for nearly two years. The chain in February said it would offer mobile ordering nationwide, but did not provide much detail then. The app delivers location-based ordering, a secure payment system and personalization, said Tressie Lieberman, senior director-digital marketing and platforms, in a statement. "These features are just the beginning. We'll continue to listen to our fans and evolve the app to meet their needs in a way only Taco Bell can."

This year has proven to be the year of mobile payment and ordering in fast food. Wendy's in March introduced a payment-by-app nationally, but the chain has said it'a working on a more sophisticated location-based option that will integrate a loyalty program. Burger King this year also said it was expanding its mobile-payment offering.

McDonald's has been testing various iterations of mobile payments in the last couple years overseas, but it has been taking the move more seriously in the U.S. through tests. In September it announced its partnership with Apple Pay. Just this morning, the chain said that customers can also pay via SoftCard, (formerly Isis Wallet), an an app that offers mobile payments, offers and loyalty and is a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. That service, SoftCard said, will also allow customers to pay at the drive-thru and in stores, much like Taco Bell's app.

Taco Bell earlier this year made a big splash with its breakfast rollout, with a marketing campaign that put a number of real-life Ronald McDonalds front and center, declaring their love for Taco Bell breakfast.

The chain has been making big moves in part because it has said it plans to double revenue to $14 billion and add 2,000 locations over the next eight years.

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