Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

This marketing ploy in 1996 caught America’s attention. Delve into this perfectly timed marketing prank! [Thursday: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

September 7, 2023

Miles Everson’s The Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Have you heard about the term, “guerrilla marketing”?

For those of you who haven’t yet, guerrilla marketing is an attention-grabbing yet usually cost-effective strategy that surprises people with innovative publicity campaigns.

This is one of my favorite marketing strategies because it reminds me that promoting a brand or a product need not always adhere to conventional strategies.

Ready to know more about today’s guerrilla marketing feature?  

Let’s dig deeper into the article below to know how this marketing stunt created buzz all around the world in 1996. 

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

In the fast-food industry, Taco Bell stands as a unique and innovative brand that has redefined the concept of Mexican-inspired cuisine. 

With its distinctive menu and continuous pursuit of culinary experimentation, the brand has not only achieved commercial success but has also left a lasting impact on the fast-food industry as a whole.

… but before Taco Bell achieved success, it used various creative marketing strategies to make its brand known to almost everyone.

One of its most notable marketing stunts was done during April Fool’s Day in 1996. It’s…  

The Taco Liberty Bell!

Photo from The Drum

On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell made a playful and attention-grabbing move by placing full-page advertisements in America’s prominent newspapers. 

In these ads, the brand humorously declared its intention to acquire the Liberty Bell and give it a new name. Henceforth, the historic artifact bore the moniker, “Taco Liberty Bell.” 

The ad read: 

“In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. 

It will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’ and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. 

While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.”

Lots of people were surprised. Some were even shocked and worried about the news, and numerous individuals expressed their grievances to the Liberty Bell’s home, the National Historic Park in Philadelphia. 

Due to the surge of phone calls from the public, the Philadelphia National Park Service held a press conference to assure everyone that the Liberty Bell wasn’t being sold. In fact, the ad that hinted at the government selling the Bell was wrong because it belonged to Philadelphia City, not the U.S. government.

Then, at noon on April 1st, during April Fool’s Day, Taco Bell admitted what the majority had already thought of: 


Taco Bell called it “the best joke of the day” but still apologized to the public for causing a controversy. 

The brand did something nice, too: It promised to give USD 50,000 to the Philadelphia National Park Service to help take care of the Liberty Bell.

Both the media and the general public embraced this jest, and the narrative garnered widespread attention worldwide.

So, did Taco Bell’s guerrilla marketing stunt work?

The prank cost approximately USD 300,000. However, the ensuing wave of free publicity surrounding the ad yielded a remarkable value of around USD 25 million in advertising equivalence. 

Notably, Taco Bell also witnessed a surge in sales, with a USD 500,000 increase on April 1, 1996, and a USD 600,000 rise the next day, compared to the same-day sales of the preceding week.

The campaign was also included in the “Top 10 Successful Marketing Stunts” list of Entrepreneur Magazine in 2006. It also ranked 7th on the Museum of Hoaxes’ “Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”

In hindsight, Taco Bell’s guerrilla marketing stunt undeniably struck a chord with both the public and the brand’s bottom line. The strategic maneuver not only showcased the power of a well-executed prank but also secured its place in marketing history. Looking back on this April Fool’s Day stunt, we can say that it left a lasting lesson in turning creativity into impactful results.

What can we learn from this guerrilla marketing stunt? 

The element of surprise is a potent tool in cutting through the noise of today’s crowded media landscape. Taco Bell ignited curiosity and generated widespread interest by leveraging a historically significant artifact and proposing a whimsical name change. 

What truly sets Taco Bell’s stunt apart is its dual impact on public engagement and the brand’s reputation. The surge of public reactions and subsequent media coverage underscored the potential of controversy to fuel discussions and amplify a brand’s message.

Moreover, the Liberty Bell prank exemplified the significance of timing, being executed on April Fools Day. The alignment between the campaign’s execution and the occasion underscores the value of strategic timing in branding initiatives.

Taco Bell’s subsequent confession also diffused potential backlash and showcased a sense of humor. This shows that brands can gain favor by being candid and honest. Such transparency fosters trust and helps humanize a brand.

The key lesson here?

Don’t be afraid to create controlled controversy! With the right timing and creativity, your marketing strategies will stand out and boost your brand’s image.

We hope you find today’s guerrilla marketing topic fun and insightful! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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