How Doritos got fans to take a competition as seriously as a job application

In the absence of a product launch this year, Doritos and Jaywing gave a national competition a boost by borrowing the conventions of the recruitment industry.

The background

Like most snacking brands, Doritos relies heavily on product innovation to drive consumer excitement. In recent years, it has launched the likes of Roulette, which hid ultra-spicy chips among ordinary tangy cheese flavour ones, and Heatburst, which delivers a delayed chilli heat. Both of these launches were used as inspiration for memorable TV campaigns.

But with no new launch this year, the marketing team needed to create something else around which to build engagement online.

The idea to run a hunt for the UK’s biggest Doritos Superfan was inspired by a Super Bowl ad for the brand from 2011 featuring a man willing to go to extreme lengths for a tasty of Tangy Cheese powder, Zoe Plummer, digital marketing manager at PepsiCo, said.

"Since Doritos has launched in the UK its always been about bringing the party," Plummer explained. "As a brand we stand for those moments in your life when you’re having the most fun."

The idea

The team also realised that the brand’s identity, expressed in its current slogan "For the bold", celebrated people willing to really put out there in the name of having a good time.

"We have to do very little to provoke a reaction from the fans," Amy Naughton, client services director at Jaywing, said – "they really love the product". This insight led to the idea to structure the competition like a job application, on the basis that the brand’s hardcore fans would be willing to show the same commitment as they would when applying for a job.

There were three stages, starting with an online application form, in which applicants were required to answer questions about the brand and then pitch a new flavour, with a name and marketing plan.

After this, 30 applicants took part in telephone interviews, with a final three invited to a face-to-face interview day with a panel chaired by comedian Katherine Ryan (pictured, top of article).

The campaign

In order to attract applicants with a serious attitude, the competition was advertised as a genuine job vacancy might be: on LinkedIn, job sites such as Reed, and in Google Search results for phrases like "best graduate jobs".

The original spot of the Doritos Superfan was show again on TV, with the section in which he licks Doritos dust from someone else’s fingers used in online display. "We tried to drive as much synergy between touchpoints as we could," Plummer said.

The campaign’s main piece of content was a two-minute film with clips of the three finalists being grilled by Ryan –  followed by a 30-second film a week later in which Faith is announced as the winner.

"We wanted someone with strong comedy value cut-through, rather than going down the route of just a social media influencer," Plummer said, explaining why Ryan was chosen to front the process.

There was another factor – Ryan is a "self-confessed Doritos fan", something that was flagged up after the team worked with Twitter to identify public figures with a genuine affinity for the brand.

That credibility was vital to creating a piece of content that people would actually watch and share, Naughton said: "One way in which brands struggle is when they get the balance wrong – they’re either compromising with the talent they’re using, or using the wrong format or story. Some brands use talent that overshadows the brand."

The results

Within two weeks of the interview day video going live, the campaign had achieved 35 million video views, and 121 million impressions across all campaign activity.

The view-through rate on that video on YouTube was 30%, which Plummer said compared to a benchmark of 15%.

But Plummer said it was important that the campaign also delivered business results. The brand’s penetration since the start of the year is now at 38.7% of households – up from 37% last year – which is equivalent to 250,000 new households. The brand has also increased purchase frequency and now has the highest frequency among brands in sharing-size packs.

Total brand sales in the year to date are up 1.2%; that’s despite last year's sales getting a boost from the launch of the Heatburst range.

"Ultimately, we are a big company and we want to sell our products," Plummer said. "But even on a campaign that wasn’t focused on selling a new product, that was more about brand equity, we saw some really strong results from a business point of view."

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