Many pundits are applauding the Taco Bell 'Steal a Base, Steal a Taco' contest during the two opening games of the 2007 World Series. It is a great promotional idea, and Taco Bell did a great job in marketing the contest. Here's how it worked: if a player steals a base, Taco Bell promises to give anyone in the US a free taco (retail value 77 cents). Sounds impressive, and they got lots of coverage when Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury stole second base last week in game 2. Millions of Americans suddenly had Taco Bell front and centre, and the brand was wonderfully linked to a euphoric emotional moment. But then the whole enchilada fell apart. Thanks to the accountants, lawyers and risk-averse operations guys. There is of course a catch to the whole promotion: you can only get your free Taco between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. today. Not lunchtime, not dinnertime, not on the weekend, not the day after the base was stolen...but today, a Tuesday. Probably the slowest sales period of the slowest day for Taco sales. The money guys will be happy: redemptions of those 77 cent tacos will plummet. And so disappears another great opportunity for Taco Bell to capitalize on this great marketing idea and move beyond their commodity position. Instead, they've probably disappointed and disillusioned hundreds of thousands of potential repeat consumers. Ouch. Oh, and they spent about $6 million just to publicize the contest. What surprises me most is the groundswell of admiration from the marketing industry. Yes, it was a great idea, but look beyond the creative for a moment and think through to the real end result: the brand just disenchanted hundreds of thousands of people, squandering an opportunity to deliver a remarkable experience. All to save a lousy 77 cents. Where's the smart thinking there?