Tostitos Cashes in Chips with Social Media Push


Can a tortilla chip find happiness as a socially-conscious organizer of reunions?

It may be a strange question, but that was the theme of the latest campaign from Tostitos brand chips from Frito-Lay, introduced at halftime of this week’s Bowl Championship Series college football game. Also known as the Fiesta Bowl, Auburn beat Oregon with a last second field goal to win the national BCS championship.

During the halftime show — which also saw ESPN hype 3D and the Aflac duck rousing fans on Facebook — Tostitos, which has been reuniting friends (above), surprised some families by reuniting them with their loved ones serving in the military, brought to Arizona from Iraq for the occasion.[more]

The brand has been working with the US military, organizing a game with college football legends late last month (see above) in Iraq. Its Fiesta Bowl family reunion event marked the kick-off of a larger campaign that is being promoted almost exclusively through Facebook.

On the Tostitos Reunite America page, Facebookers are invited to “Tell us which Facebook friend or family member you’re dying to reunite with. If you’re picked, we’ll set you up with a once-in-a-lifetime reunion.” Users can upload video stories to potentially win a chance at a reunion — or vote for their favorites, and help Frito-Lay make its decision as it mulls winners.

Justin Lambeth, VP, marketing at Frito-Lay, tells the New York Times it’s a campaign that “brings people together through the power of technology… We’re hoping for stories that should make you laugh, make you cry, and motivate you to submit a story of your own.”

While the number of reunions that Tostitos will fund is yet to be determined, Lambeth says “Whether the issue is time, money or distance, we can make it happen.” 

The campaign is a far cry from the traditional advertising Tostitos has done in the past. Even during the BCS game, Tostitos used conventional ads to pitch its all-natural ingredients — without, notably, referring to the “Tostitos Reunite America” campaign. Frito-Lay spend around $27 million in 2009 to advertise the Tostitos brand, according to the Times.

The purpose of this new campaign, however, is to highlight the brand’s corporate citizenship. The goal is not to talk about the product attributes of Tostitos, but instead “to focus on the emotional part of the brand and live out its purpose,” says Nancy Reyes, a group account director at the ad agency (Goodby, Silverstein), that conceived the campaign, to the Times.

As a brand associated with socializing and communal events (watching sports, get-togethers) it makes eminent sense for Tostitos to embrace social marketing, and the spirit of Facebook (connecting people).

And of course, consumer brands have been flocking to social media. Not only are sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter wildly popular among users, they also represent a way for brand marketers to engage consumers in a cost-effective manner, as social media marketing is much less expensive than traditional ads. But it also requires care and feeding — a human touch, transparency and authenticity — to those communications.

Undoubtedly, Frito-Lay is taking a lesson from its owner, PepsiCo, who has become known as an early adopter of social marketing. But as the company can attest, with the rewards of social media come the risks — the Pepsi Refresh Project and a recent “Crash the Super Bowl” contest have both met with unanticipated controversy.

Still, as Stuart Elliott of the New York Times writes, “Today, a shopping basket full of brands from companies like Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Kraft, PepsiCo and Sara Lee are being hawked alongside automobiles, financial services and technology products” using social media.

So it’s really no surprise to see Tostitos sticking its hand in the social media bowl. What do you think of this campaign?


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