A few weeks ago on Super Bowl Sunday, Santa Clara residents passing near Levi's Stadium might have noticed a massive crane dangling what looked like a long dinner table high in the sky. Actually, it was a long dinner table—complete with 22 volunteers strapped into padded seats and enjoying entrees prepared by celebrity Chef Matthew O'Neil. Those nervy diners weren't just having a free meal 14 stories off the ground; they were setting a new world record for high-altitude tailgating, courtesy of Doritos.
It was certainly a colorful publicity stunt. But assuming that more adventurous volunteers can be found, it was also just the beginning.
Last week, Frito-Lay officially kicked off Bold 50, a yearlong marketing campaign that invites everyday consumers to set or break any of 50 world records, all of which involve Doritos chips in some way. (Super Bowl Sunday's "Tallest Suspended Football Party," held at an altitude of 137 feet, was technically record No. 1.)
According to Frito-Lay marketing vp Jeannie Cho, Bold 50 will allow customers to "put their personal stamp on the brand," which also happens to be turning 50 this year. "We see consumer engagement as an ongoing dialogue with our fans," she said.
That dialogue started in 2006 with "Crash the Super Bowl," the decade-long contest that aired user-generated spots during the Big Game, and proved that crowdsourced content could make for world-class commercials.
But while "Crash the Super Bowl" merely invited entrants to submit a video and "make it awesome," Bold 50 will direct fans onto stunt territory, effectively pushing the envelope on an existing formula.
"Doritos will create new records for consumers to break, such as the highest location from which to eat Doritos chips or building the tallest house of cards using Doritos chips," Cho explained. Another record announced by the company involves tossing a Doritos chip into someone's mouth. The remaining 46 world records will be announced over the course of the coming year. RecordSetter.com will serve as the independent verifier.
It's a good bet that videos of the record attempts will make for enjoyable watching. The question is, is Doritos wise to bet on a bunch of ordinary Americans trying to set world records with a snack food?
Aliza Freud thinks so. Freud, CEO of influencer marketing and media company SheSpeaks, believes the first rule of creating sharable branded content is asking the question: Does the content actually relate to the brand? "Doritos talks about bold flavors, so the idea of breaking records by doing crazy things is absolutely consistent with the brand," she said.
Peter Dixon, chief creative officer of brand and marketing consultancy Prophet, adds that Doritos was smart for designing a campaign that features not only people trying to attain world records, but competing with one another to attain them. "People can relate to accomplishments, goofy or otherwise," he said, but Doritos is also "tapping into content that engages a human condition, and the truth is that people love competition." (In fact, "Crash the Super Bowl" was also a contest, not just user-generated content.)
It's also significant that Doritos has structured Bold 50 to involve its chips, but not be about them. The star of the show, Freud said, should always be people, not the brand. "Doritos figured out early on that the smart way to advertise is not to have your product be the hero, but to have your consumer be the star," she said. "People share content that features people like them."
This story first appeared in the March 14 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.