A highly integrated Facebook promotion run for a few days last month by Frito-Lay was very productive in drawing likes to the brand’s Facebook page: 1.5 million new likes in the space of 24 hours on April 11, reportedly a new standard, according to Guinness World Records. And as thank you, on April 29 Frito-Lay offered those fans a Facebook thank-you, in the form of a digital coupon for a free $4 bag of chips.
What got people flocking in such numbers to the brand’s Facebook profile page in the first place? The immediate driver was a five-day live event in New York’s Times Square where Frito-Lay recreated the flavor development kitchen from its Plano, TX, headquarters atop the marquee to the Hard Rock Cafe. There executive chef Stephen Kalil and the Frito-Lay team ran demonstrations to show how to prepare the culinary inspiration before some of the flavors in their Lay’s Potato Chip, Tostitos Tortilla Chips and Sun Chips product lines.
The live event was intended to further a mass media campaign Frito-Lay launched back in January to publicize the fact that seasonings and flavorings for these product lines are all-natural, and a promise by the company to make 50% of its total product portfolio from only natural ingredients by the end of 2011.
“We have a big flavor kitchen at our culinary institute at Frito-Lay [headquarters] where we made all these natural flavors, and people kept telling us, ‘We’re really interested in how you guys come up with your products,’” said Ram Krishnan, director of marketing for the PepsiCo-owned brand. “So we decided to take the flavor kitchen to the people.”
Kalil and company were joined in the Times Square kitchen by celebrity chefs such as “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi and Michael Psilakis, a judge in Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown”, also sharing their own recipes for fresh flavors. The Frito-Lay team also previewed some natural snack flavorings that might make it into the product stream at some time in the future. Passersby were able to taste some of these future concoctions and give their opinions, along with their own suggestions for flavors and questions for chef Kalil, thanks to street teams equipped with iPads to submit comments to the chefs.
All these sessions were streamed live to billboards around Times Square and also to the Frito-Lay Facebook page, where viewers could also submit comments and questions for response.
Frito-Lay is part of the brand portfolio held by PepsiCo, which last year announced it was diverting budget from traditional mass-media and promotional campaigns to spend more on social channels and further social initiatives such as the Pepsi Refresh Project. Another Pepsi brand, Mountain Dew, reached out to social media with the most recent iteration of its Dewmocracy promotion in 2010.
Streams of the living cooking demos were only one of the elements driving traffic to the Frito-Lay Facebook page. Appliance maker Electrolux outfitted the Times Square flavor kitchen, and each day of the live event, visitors were encouraged to go like the Frito-Lay page and enter for a chance to win an Electrolux cooking appliance. The grand prize, awarded at the end of the five-day event, was an entire suite of Electrolux appliances including an induction cooktop able to bring water to a boil in 90 seconds.
And at the same time as the live event, Frito-Lay launched a natural-themed integration with popular social game Farmville in which players can help harvest and package “farm-fresh ingredients” into bags of Lays, Tostitos and Sun Chips snacks. Having spent a minute doing that, they can then unlock two special Frito-Lay themed decorations for their own farms, a delivery truck and a farm stand. Interestingly, placing the farm stand on a farm earns that player “double mastery” for all crops harvested from that farm for the next two days—valuable rewards for Farmville fanatics.
“We integrated our whole natural storyline into the game,” Krishnan said. “Reading the blogs, we found that most players were really happy that this wasn’t just an outlier overlay onto the game but was really built in to play.” Other brands that have integrated with Farmville from game developer Zynga include Farmer’s Insurance and 7-Eleven.
For all these promotions and traffic-drivers, Krishnan maintains that it was never Frito-Lay’s strategy to compel Facebook visitors to like the page in order to participate.”We don’t believe in ‘fan-gating’,” he says. “There was never a question that you had to like us [on Facebook] to do any of these activities. We believe in long-term relationships with consumers. We don’t want them to sign up just for one promotion and then un-like us the next day.”
That makes it all the more impressive that the brand got 1.5 million likes at the start of the Times Square promotion, apparently enough to set a new record for daily fan support on the social network. At press time, the Frito-Lay Facebook page has just short of 2 million likes and saw virtually no falloff after the event, according to Krishnan.
Fans didn’t need to like Frito-Lay to take advantage of the free $4 chip coupon either. But chances are those who claimed the coupon were in fact Facebook fans, since the offer was only published on the Facebook page and was not even tweeted to Frito-Lay’s Twitter account.
“The chip coupon was intended to be a thank-you to the people who had participated all week long in our streaming program,” Krishnan says. At the announcement of the coupon offer on April 29, the first 24,000 visitors to the Facebook page saw a special tab they could click through to register and get a coupon sent to their accounts.
Once those coupons ran out, visitors to the Frito-Lay brand page started seeing a graphic that encouraged them to look for a PepsiCo “Moments to Save” FSI in their May 1 newspapers.