Media All-Star: Kristen Colonna | Adweek
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Media All-Star: Kristen Colonna

Group account director, OMD, turned to Facebook and Zynga to tell Frito-Lay's story

Jeremy Goldberg

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Frito-Lay had a problem: women weren't walking down the snack aisle in the grocery store anymore.

Despite its lion's share of the salty snack market, shelves were being infiltrated by small competitors touting all-natural and locally grown ingredients--and ladies loved them. "We had a death-by-a-thousand-cuts scenario on our hands," says Kristin Colonna, OMD's group account director, who oversees innovative communications strategy for PepsiCo (Frito-Lay's parent company).

So Frito-Lay revamped its products in 2011, taking Lay's, Tostitos, and SunChips--60 percent of its portfolio--all natural. Colonna and her team then had to flip the brand's reputation on its head. For Colonna, who joined OMD right out of college nine years ago, maternal awareness was critical--but it was just the start. "We needed consumers to do more than know. We needed them to believe," says Colonna. "And then we needed them to advocate on our behalf."

She turned to Facebook, but understood that a brand page would not be enough. "We had to bring a story to life in an engaging way," Colonna says. Her team approached Zynga, the game developer behind hits such as FarmVille--which is available for play via Facebook--and together they created a unique, first-to-market integration leveraging the game platform to drive growth of a Frito-Lay online community. Moms playing virtually harvested the wheat, corn, and potatoes now integral to Frito-Lay products, hauled the ingredients to a solar power plant, and shipped them to the store in electric trucks. "We were able to enhance their farm and bring our story to life," says Colonna.

For the first time, if users "liked" the product on Facebook, they were pointed toward other content. Fans were offered a sweepstakes for a new kitchen, webisodes to watch, and testimonials from farmers discussing the healthier Frito-Lay. "The strategy had to be robust," Colonna explains.

The Guinness World Records book named the promotion the fastest-growing Facebook brand page within 24 hours: 1.8 million "likes" in a day. Today, the page boasts about 2.2 million fans.

"Kristen is a modern communications planner who understands all media, especially the digital and social space," says Alan Cohen, CEO of OMD U.S. "In this case [she] used the power of social gaming and online community behavior to deliver a solution that went beyond our wildest dreams."