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Taco Bell profits off of virtual reality hype with text-to-win giveaway

Thanks to a mobile sweepstakes held in partnership with Sony, Taco Bell customers who purchase a Big Box meal will become eligible to win a PlayStation virtual reality headset by texting in a code found on the packaging.

To celebrate the sweepstakes, Taco Bell and Sony opened a pop-up shop on Greene Street in Manhattan, where customers can enjoy free tacos and test out a PlayStation VR headset. The promotion will last from Sept. 15 to Oct. 19.

“Taco Bell’s PlayStation VR promotion marks the fourth time we’ve teamed up with Sony,” said a spokesman for Taco Bell. “With their leadership in gaming innovation and our continued food innovation, it makes a great partnership and something our fans have enjoyed year after year.”

VR rewards
Taco Bell and Sony have teamed up multiple times in the past for hardware giveaways, including a free PlayStation 4 when the console was first released. Now, the two brands are teaming up once more to promote Sony’s PlayStation VR headset.

To enter, customers must purchase a Taco Bell Big Box meal, which is a box that contains multiple Taco Bell items. Each box includes a code that users can text in for the chance to win a PlayStation VR headset. The Big Box is also promoting Taco Bell’s new food items, including the Cheddar Habanero Quesarito.

To raise awareness for the contest, Taco Bell and Sony have also opened up a pop-up shop in SoHo, Manhattan. There, customers can test out the PlayStation VR for free and speak with representatives from Taco Bell and Sony. A food truck outside will also hand out free Doritos Locos tacos.

The pop-up shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 16.

Mobile-centered sweepstakes such as these are a tried-and-true method of driving customer engagement. But in recent months, it seems that many brands have focused more heavily on the use of mobile applications as a tool for hosting those contests.

It is interesting to note that Taco Bell does not require a mobile app to enter the contest, only a text message. Texts are something any phone can do, and could indicate an attempt from Taco Bell to bypass the need for customers to download an app first before they enter a contest.

In doing so, however, it misses the opportunity to offer a more branded experience that could come with using a mobile app. Instead, customers will see only the unbranded, third-party messaging app template.

McDonald’s ran a similar text-to-win campaign last month, but it is one of the last brands to do so as most move on to apps (see story).

The move to apps is unsurprising for most though, given new research that shows mobile apps make up half of all digital time spent in the U.S. (see story)

If Taco Bell wants to stay on the cutting edge, mobile apps seem to be the way to go for sweepstakes such as this. Still, the text-to-win model might be an effective strategy if the trade-off between SMS and apps proves negligible.

“Mobile is key in providing ease and access for our consumers,” Taco Bell’s spokesman said. “Whether it’s texting in a code to win a PlayStation VR every 15 minutes, to mobile ordering and payment.

“We’ll continue to provide brand experiences to our fans when and where they want it.”