What awaits you inside this bag?
Three mystery flavors, labeled only by their numbers, were suddenly available in my supermarket.
Test flavors 404 and 2653 come in yellow and blue bags, respectively.
I had always wanted to be Nancy Drew as a child, and here were mystery chips that needed solving. (When I was a kid, it was Mystery Dum Dum lollipops). Clues could be found on the nutritional facts label as required by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but really the only way to find out the flavor was to try them.
Would customers really buy chips when they didn’t know what they were getting into?
Here’s how Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, sweetened the deal and created lots of buzz.
The Internet Makes Secrets Hard to Keep
“Forty percent bigger in size and thickness, the chip delivers a one-two punch of intense flavors followed by a twist of spice or tanginess that packs the ultimate crunch,” is how Frito-Lay describes the “Jacked” line of chips on their website. The Jacked line was launched in 2012, but it’s only this year that the mystery line was launched.
If you’re curious about the flavors, but nervous about putting something unknown into your mouth, the internet can help. Everyone from the Huffington Post to the New York Daily News taste-tested the chips and shared their reviews online.
But Frito-Lay wasn’t interested in keeping the flavors a secret anyway.
A Mystery Campaign with a Mystery Contest
Quite simply, bold taste-testers are encouraged to visit www.BoldFlavorExperiment.com and vote for their favorite flavors. The winning flavor will be offered on shelves in the fall, which is also when all three mystery flavors will be revealed.
Voters have a daily chance to win $1,000US in gold, because Doritos sort of means “bits of gold” in Spanish. Well hey, who doesn’t want to win $1,000? In gold?
I voted, did not win, and was asked if I wanted to enter “Phase Two”; this involves a scavenger hunt that will provide even more clues to the names of the mystery flavors.
Phase One requires an email address, but Phase Two requires a player to create an account. Any contemporary marketer knows the power of the email capture.
Players who didn’t want to give up their email address had to register through Facebook – giving Frito-Lay the opportunity to post to the fan’s wall and spread the word through social.
“Crazy” Chip Flavors are Not New
Last year, Frito-Lay ran a similar experiment with their Lay’s potato chips. The “Do Us a Flavor” Contest. Americans submitted potential chip flavors, and in turn, the most-requested chips were put on the shelves. Frito-Lay gathered votes through Facebook.
The flavors were: Chicken & Waffles, Sriracha and Cheesy Garlic Bread. I actually very rarely eat chips, and I could not bring myself to eat any of these. Further confession: I’m a New Englander, and chicken & waffles is a Southern specialty I haven’t been able to convince myself to eat, never mind in chip form (Apparently they are delicious, though!).
Frito-Lay has taken the fan challenge to a new level, however, by asking their customers to try chips with very little information.
Has the Mystery Contest Been Successful?
Personally, I think many a snack consumer is a sucker for slick packaging, especially mystery packaging that sounds like a science experiment.
But I don’t think we’ll really know until the fall, when Frito-Lay shares the results. They’ve certainly created a lot of buzz for the chips.
The reviews are pretty funny to read. Many of the sites had their staff take the bold flavor experiment and then shared their comments. My favorite was from NY Daily News, which was footnoted with, “*Side note: despite complaints, tasters continued to eat all three flavors of the chips.”
From Kotaku.com, “Starting April 29…Frito-Lay starts giving out daily prizes of $1,000 in gold as an apology to everyone involved. “
Have the reviews helped or hurt Frito-Lay’s experiment? I can say that I tried 855 and 404, and once I read about 2653 I decided not to try that.
We’ll definitely share the results of the contest on gooibiz later in the year.