Taco Bell takes a stab at slang

In this April 22, 2008 file photo, a Taco Bell restaurant is shown in Lantana, Fla. Taco Bell executives are studying a strange new vocabulary emerging on this side of the border - the lingo of its young customers. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, file)

Taco Bell may be slaying the fast food taco market — it sells about 1 million neon orange Doritos Locos Tacos every day — but their Millennial slang game is still pretty basic.

Fortunately for anyone under the age of 30 who winces when another fast food chain inappropriately uses the term “bae” (“baby”) to describe a pizza or claims that their hashbrowns are “on fleek,” Taco Bell’s executives are studying up.

The leaders of Yum Brands, the corporation that owns Taco Bell along with other chains like Pizza Hut, are apparently practicing their Internet-friendly lingo with a “Millennial Word of the Week” chosen by the company’s younger employees.

They still have some work to do.

In announcing the new strategy, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol explained to a corporate conference audience that the phrase “on cleek” means “on point” or “very good.” His definition was indeed on point, but the correct term is of course, “on fleek.”

Mr. Niccol is not alone. Dozens of restaurant chains inadvertently generated more smirks than “likes” over the past few years thanks to inept usage of popular slang on corporate social media profiles. Some campaigns became outright disasters.

McDonald’s, for example, asked Twitter users to share their #McDStories in 2012, hoping to collect short snippets of golden arches-related nostalgia. Thousands of people responded, to be sure, but the majority had something less than flattering to recount about the global chain.

Still, as long as fast food chains need to court younger customers — and they always will — advertising and public relations employees will continue to stumble through the perilous and ever-changing world of social media and its accompanying slang lexicon.

Newspapers might soon need to take a stab at that same strategy. Print readership among Millennials generally stands somewhere between bad and “ratchet” (“very bad”) and increasing numbers of young people get their news from social media.

Until that day, however, we literally can’t even.