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Lessons from Frito-Lay’s Facebook Co-Creation by David Bauer

Frito-Lay is in the midst of a Facebook contest where participants can create their own flavor of potato chips. These social programs can be a valuable way to both gather insights and market the brand. David Bauer outlines the lessons we all should take from the example of Frito-Lay.


Editor’s Note: The New York Times article on how brands are utilizing social media for research certainly made waves in the research community this week.  Personally, I found it to be one more piece of evidence in the case that yes indeed, the game has changed and brands are increasingly turning to new approaches that deliver both insight and brand impact. It’s been a crazy week for me so I haven’t been able to address this myself, but thankfully David Bauer of Hemispheres Research has written a great piece on the lessons we all should take from the example of Frito-Lay cited in the article. This is a great post  and I hope you’ll join me in thanking David for guest posting on this important topic!

by David Bauer

Frito-Lay is in the midst of a Facebook contest (Do us a Flavor) where participants can create their own flavor of potato chips with a chance to win $1,000,000 and have their flavor become reality. Recent NY Times coverage details this program and similar ones created by other companies. When done right, these programs can provide an abundance of new ideas that can serve as one more input to the Insights, Marketing, and Innovation teams. I think Frito-Lay has executed this program well and other companies should pay attention when developing their own initiatives. Here are some of my thoughts based on their program:

1. Have a simple objective. In this case their main goal was to collect flavor ideas. Social participants are only likely to provide “snack-size” bits of information so don’t expect them to share too much at a time.

2. Bring their ideas to life. After participants submit a flavor idea, it is instantly applied to a Lay’s package with an appropriate image. I’d love to know more about this programming that summons the right image for each flavor. I think this aspect makes the experience more engaging and fun and therefore encourages more involvement.

3. Provide instant feedback and encourage social sharing. People like collecting “likes” and this drives engagement and social sharing. In Do us a Flavor, participants can find out how many people like their flavor and from where in the country interest is coming. They can also share their flavor ideas with their Facebook friends to increase their “likes.”

4. Plan for distractions. As this is social media, there are plenty of people more interested in joking than snacking. Ridiculous flavors are in the mix. Frito-Lay has addressed this, as the default setting is to see the most popular first. Hit “randomize” and there you will see plenty of legitimate ideas along with “Bacon Milkshake,” “Powdered Donuts,” “Lobster Bisque,” and “Pickles and Ice Cream.”

5. Make Sense of It All. As with any research assignment, the toughest part is the brain work needed to sort through the data, remove the clutter, and discover the insights.

6. Hunt for Qualitative Insights. In the Frito-Lay program, each person can share a few thoughts about the inspiration for their flavor.  I’m sure this has the potential to provide an abundance of ideas, but it will take some deep review (and hopefully good text analysis software) to tease out insights that may be useful.

7. Run on all devices. If the program is run through social, it needs to be optimized for mobile devices.

I think these social programs can be a valuable way to both gather insights and to market the brand. Companies should consider them as one of the techniques in their research tool-kits and learn from the successful programs leading the way.

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4 responses to “Lessons from Frito-Lay’s Facebook Co-Creation by David Bauer

  1. I’m not privvy to inside information, but according to Pepsico’s own website the UK brand Walkers first started this idea of co-creation in the UK in July 2008 (“Do Us a Flavour”). They certainly created a lot of attention, high profile campaign stuff, and certainly there were some interesting flavours that I came across. Fast-forward 4 years to the the present, and check out their UK webiste – the flavours featured are the Flavours I grew up with. This suggests to me that the ROI work has been done here, and certain conclusions have been come to already. Just a guess. Whatever the specific reality – research really needs to keep abreast of what marketing (and technology for that matter) is testing and proving. The train is moving fast.

  2. Very exciting thoughts – and also, it is all quite supportive to hear such words being someone who has been heavily involved in co-creation processes in the past years. I do agree that ” these social programs can be a valuable way to both gather insights and to market the brand.” On the other hand, I also see some risks there. I think that an initiative like this is definetely a great tool trying to (try to) create some social buzz and consumer activity which could have a great engagement value if it’s done well. On the other hand, such “striking” campaigns might even cause harm to the reputation of co-creation if they are not “channeled” well – I mean, even co-creation (as a research and innovation method) might need thorough planning, guides and smart questions that might help to get closer and closer to the innovation objectives and focused (whilst also creative) thinking from participants, even if they are consumers. Also, some kind of segmentation and knowing whom we would like to address and gain insights and ideas from might be essential to be able to deliver results that might indeed create a lasting impact. (Which might work much better in case of dedicated full day workshops and online communities.)
    On the whole, I think these kind of mass Facebook initiatives are a fun way to brand and engage consumers, yet I do believe that co-creation is something that should be preserved from getting a quick, mass tool.

  3. I’m doing some research about this campaign and I came across this really interesting post. I do believe that Lay’s found a great way to connect with its audience in a way that gives power to them. However, I was wondering how do you think this campaign should be improved? I look forward to hear your thoughts.

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