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Taco Bell Unwraps Rewards-Based Game ‘Explore’

January 6, 2016

Taco Bell is kicking up the heat on efforts to reward its hungry and loyal customers.

On Wednesday, the fast-food chain began promoting the game Explore, which is located on the company’s app and rewards diners for actions both expected and unexpected. Gamers unlock puzzle pieces either by ordering food within the app or by sharing experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But the earnings opportunities through social media represent a twist from typical loyalty efforts, because Explore users can earn puzzle pieces for activities that have nothing to do with Taco Bell. After linking their social media platforms with the game, users can just go about their business and will find themselves earning rewards when they don’t expect it and haven’t necessarily even mentioned Taco Bell, said Tressie Lieberman, vice president of digital innovation and on demand.

“The whole game is about surprise and delight,” she said. “We’re not telling you what to do. You’re just going about your daily life and unlocking pieces.”

The algorithm behind Explore will recognize gamers’ behaviors that illustrate they’re “Living Mas” – the restaurant’s tagline for living large – and reward for posts about, say, attending an amazing event or watching a sunrise.

“They don’t necessarily have to use any specific hashtag,” Lieberman said.

Users who complete the first Explore puzzle earn a free Freeze drink, and those who finish additional puzzles can earn things such as gift cards worth up to $100 or a trip to Taco Bell’s headquarters in California. The gamers see their standings on a leaderboard and can compare their performance with other players, including their friends.

Explore has been available on the Taco Bell app for a few weeks as a live test. The app, which went live in October, has been downloaded more than 4.7 million times. The first season of Explore is expected to end in May, with season two likely to offer a different experience.

While Lieberman insists that Explore is a game and “not a loyalty program,” it taps into several important facets of loyalty marketing, including using gamification and “surprise and delight” to deepen customer engagement. Taco Bell is beginning to see a lot of traction with in-app mobile ordering, Lieberman said. Explore could deliver bigger usage of both the app and the mobile ordering.

And that’s something the food chain could really sink its teeth into.

Source: Ad Age