Snack fans do Lay’s a favour

BradleyTMacDonald    February 15, 2016

The advent of social media opened so many doors for businesses. It also brought about opportunities to build new doors or alter the old ones.

Product innovation has changed rapidly in recent years, as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest exploded to become the social media titans they are now.

Brands are becoming more and more daring with their innovation initiatives, bringing about bolder and bigger campaigns every year. Kalypso notes that many of the companies they polled on the topic don’t use it for sweeping changes or big projects – it would seem many companies are just dipping their foot in to test the water. Or maybe they are waiting to see how their peers succeed and/or fail?


In recent years, potato chip giant Lay’s has taken the polar opposite of the conservative approach to this with their ever-evolving Do Us A Flavour campaign.

Do Us A Flavour first launched in 2012 (Do Us a Flavor in the United States was separate from Canada’s contest) as a celebration of the company’s 75th anniversary. They had a simple ask of their customers: come up with the best new potato chip flavour. Fourteen countries held their own competitions.

The submitted ideas certainly were a mixed bag of options, from “Chilli & Chocolate, Caesar Salad, Late Night Kebab and even Cajun Squirrel” – I can’t even imagine what that last one would be like – but they were narrowed down to four unique tastes that were produced, and sent out to stores for the people to sample and vote for.

By the end of the contest, one chip would rule them all. The winning innovator received $50-thousand and a cut of the sales. Their creation would be in stores alongside the classics like Salt & Vinegar and Dill Pickle for a full year. Since its start, Canada has seen winners in Maple Moose, Jalapeño Mac & Cheese, and P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes.

While the very nature of the contest – creating unique potato chip flavours – helps prevent the annual event from going stale, Lay’s has taken measures to ensure every year is just a bit different from the year before in its delivery. Indeed, they have noted the importance of “[keeping] things fresh and exciting.”

Across the board, the various campaigns have used actors, athletes and television personalities as promoters every year – that is pretty standard. But they have taken new steps on social media every year as well.

The inaugural competition mainly used Facebook as its vehicle for promotion, voting, and innovation: consumers could submit and vote there, and there was also a customized “Like” button; if you liked what you saw, you could click “I’d Eat That.” Yahoo! Finance noted this was in order to “encourage more friend interactions and ‘flavor showdowns’ among the contestants.

But since then, there have been several innovations. AdWeek’s Lauren Johnson digs deeper on this. was launched ­– creating Lay’s own space for voting and media. Over they years they have also opened up opportunities to vote via hashtags on Twitter, Instagram and Vine, as well as by text messages, and yes, online submissions on the website. This of course, opens up the opportunity to consumers to join the campaign on their mobile devices when they’re on the go.

Lay’s Canada has also taken their own steps to inspire new and different kinds of submissions. Last year, they asked Canadians to submit the “Taste of Canada” – with four finalists representing four different regions of the country.

Cowboy Baked Beans represented “rodeo food in Western Canada”, Butter Chicken was inspired by the numerous people of South Asian heritage in Ontario, Montreal Smoked Meat was “inspired by Quebec and named for that city’s deli favourite,” and P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes by the importance of the potato to Canada’s smallest province.

While this year they’re asking for Canadians to name a “World Favourite” by choosing one from each category: “Iconic Ingredients”, “Home Cooked Classics”, and “Street Food” – stay tuned for the winners.

Lessons for Others

So, Do Us A Flavour is pretty brilliant – it generates a ton of free publicity for Lay’s. Everyone is going to have an opinion on CAPPUCCINO or CINNAMON BUN potato chips, and the company’s bottom line has looked pretty good during this promotion as well, by posting growth periods following the competition.

As Sarah Barmak points out in Canadian Business, this contest isn’t meant to make long-term, sweeping changes for the company. Permanent flavours haven’t been the results from this initiative – they’re not altering their entire brand, they’re just getting people talking.

Do Us A Flavour is a quick, relatively easy, relatively inexpensive, impactful, and tasty way to do them a favour.


Organization: Frito-Lay
Industry: Snack Food Manufacturing
Name of Organization Contact: Chris Kuechenmeister, Vice President of Communications, Frito-Lay North America & PepsiCo Americas

Authored by: Brad MacDonald

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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