How Lay’s Is Adding More Social Zest to Its Popular Flavor-Creation Campaign

Response videos, trend maps and more help fuel the crowdsourced contest

Now in its third year, Lay's is using its annual Do Us a Flavor campaign to capitalize on social chatter with a clever (and highly orchestrated) real-time marketing plan.

Through March 31, the Frito-Lay brand is asking consumers to submit their ideas for a new chip flavor online. Similar to past years, Lay's will turn four of the best ideas into actual products, and the winning flavor will stay on store shelves for one year.

This year's campaign comes with a new twist. The chip brand is working with digital shop Deep Focus to find interesting submission ideas—like Greek-inspired flavors—and conversations on Twitter. Once the brand finds something intriguing, it responds with short YouTube clips.

"We know that going into year three, we need to keep things fresh and exciting," said Tina Mahal, senior director of marketing at Lay's. "When we set out to launch this year, we looked for things that were tried-and-true and tested—partnerships with Facebook and Twitter [for example]—and also things that are new and would be captivating for consumers."

Ten to 15 Deep Focus employees are involved with the Lay's program, which has set up a small puppet theater inside the agency's New York offices to create and produce the videos.

The agency first uses social listening tools to zero in on conversations happening about the brand. The team then turns around a script based on the tweet in roughly one hour. The script centers on two potato-themed puppets named Marvin and Duncan—also known as the Taste Spuds—and their amusing conversations.

Once the script is approved, the Deep Focus team sets up the pair of puppets in front of a mini stage inside Moment Studio, Deep Focus' creative newsroom. As two employees make the puppets' move behind the stage, other staffers work the curtain, film the spot and oversee the creative.

Each minute-long video ends with a big sign at the end prompting consumers to submit their flavor ideas at—the hub of the campaign.

According to Deep Focus, the average puppet video takes 10 shoots to create. Once the final spot is picked, it is then uploaded to Lay's YouTube page and the social team responds to the original tweet with the video link (see examples below). Lay's is also distributing the videos through mobile messaging app Yo.

So far, the Lay's and Deep Focus teams have created six out of about 20 campaign videos. Each video takes about two days to turn around from concept to the final product.

One of the early video efforts was inspired by comedy writer Bill Oakley, who earlier this month tweeted his flavor idea of "steamed ham,"  based on a clip from The Simpsons. (It appears his original tweet has since been deleted for some reason).

After seeing the tweet, the Deep Focus team then responded bv creating a minute-long video riffing off of The Simpsons clip.

Adweek got the first look at one of the clips that Lay's plans to publish soon. The spot takes place in an airport as the puppet duo plans a trip to Florida to escape the cold:

In addition to the puppets, Lay's is working with Google to power a "Flavorcast" heat map that shows the top five trending ingredients in each state. For example, folks in California seem to like lemon, while people in Indiana currently prefer the taste of … toad?

Indiana is hungry for toad, apparently.

There's also a user-generated component to the campaign. Once a flavor is submitted, people can create a mini movie trailer where the ingredients become characters. Lay's Mahal said that there have been more than 14,500 videos created so far—half of which are then uploaded to YouTube.

"The way that brands marketed in the past was very much one-way—what we wanted to do on Lay's was have much more of a two-way conversation with Lay's," Mahal said. "Last year we did a one-to-one as well as one-to-many communication [strategy], so this is an evolution of that. We saw that it worked extremely well last year, so we've continued that approach this year."

The Do Us a Flavor video campaign is the latest project to come out of Deep Focus' Moment Studio—a 20-person team launched in 2012. The team is designed to respond to the seemingly never-ending stream of conversation happening about brands on social media. Staffers have daily meetings to talk about trends that brands could potentially jump on through social media

"It's this interesting mix of traditional, creative and production folks blended with some insights and analytics that help us be really consumer-focused in the social space," said Christina Cooksey, director of Moment Studio.

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