“Hey Taco Bell, The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject.”
At approximately 9:32 PM on January 8, 2018, Charlie Daniels, of the famed Charlie Daniels Band, fired that tweet out into the ether. I like to think that at the time, then 81-year-old Charlie was flustered, having been pushed over the edge by one Taco “Belluminati” ad too many, sandwiched between his diet of far-right conservative news and QVC (I’m guessing).
Old Charlie was angry, scared, and spiteful at a conglomerate that he, assumedly, viewed as upholding the status quo. In his eyes, Taco Bell was part of the problem. It was a fast food chain serving as one of many pillars of the all-seeing eye that subjected the masses and force-fed them into a blind stupor.
And it was true. Taco Bell fed the stuporous into the wee hours of the morning. Around 1 or 2 AM on weekends, drive-thru lane traffic would extend around the parking lot and out into the street at Taco Bells across America. One could assume that the unseen Illuminati masters were pleased at such a turnout, at such a blind eye given to the real evils that plagued the world beyond the enticing glow of a warm, crisp Chalupa. The ad campaign was tribalism at its finest.
“How do you get into a secret society where enlightened people are enjoying all of this decadence?” Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg told AdWeek in an interview shortly after the campaign launched. “Well, entry is a dollar, admission is a dollar, so it’s a not-so-secret society.”
According to Thalberg, the point of the Belluminati campaign was to bring awareness to Taco Bell’s value menu alongside fostering a community foodie fans.
I don’t know the numbers of how many were indoctrinated with this campaign. In fact, instead of researching this data, I spent my time trying to recreate the discontinued Taco Bell Enchirito™ in my kitchen. I failed to clone the real deal, but I did learn a valuable lesson in the process.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” singer Charlie Daniels took an Internet beating when he released that tweet out into the universe. Similarly, I took an Internet beating when I posted pictures of my homemade Enchirito on Pinterest. People were cruel, and they raked this fearful old man over the coals for what many perceive as absurdity. In turn, my wife raked me over the coals for wasting all of our ground beef on such an inedible abomination.
The truth, in both cases, is…
The reactions were just as fearful. Collectively, we saw someone step out of line and join another competing brand of tribalism, and we publicly flogged him for it. We rallied together, struck back, and reinforced his opinion that there is a mighty, shadowy organization out there stealing the world Old Charlie thought he knew. We could have invited him to a spread of Doritos Locos and beckoned Mr. Daniels into the fold. Instead, we sent this morlock back underground to rejoin his kin, inevitably festering long enough to grow legion and one day consume us all with a fire more damaging and more permanent than any hot sauce.
2016 wasn’t an accident. It was a reminder that we leave others behind, and they form their own brand identities complete with value-menu pricing, long drive-thru lines, and ad campaigns that imply entry into their own Eyes Wide Shut fever dreams. And sometimes these others fester long enough to Frankenstein their own horrific monster whose sole purpose is to tear our Taco Bell asunder.
It’s silly until it’s not. The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject.