Coming Up Short: Relying on Buzzwords and Gimmicks

As highlighted in last month’s End Result, iconic brands such as Coke are customizing and personalizing their products like never before. This summer, Lay’s is the latest brand to get in on the act.


A recent story in AdAge details how, “people can create custom bags by uploading a personal picture and phrase depicting their ‘favorite summer moment.'”

10,000 bags will be produced and will arrive just in time for the 4th of July. In addition, as each bag is being designed, each customer will be sent an image of their personalized bag.

Create your own bag now with the Lay’s Summer Days page.

According to AdAge, “Custom and unique packaging programs have emerged as a critical tool for big consumer-packaged good brands that can no longer rely on traditional advertising to break through.”

Apparently, Lay’s is overlooking the power of testimonials from radio personalities. Imagine the impact if Lay’s sent a personalized bag to every DJ and talk show host and got them talking.

Instead, “Lay’s execs are counting on social media to increase the program’s reach well beyond the owners of the 10,000 custom bags … hoping the user will share it broadly … at least that is the goal.”

In this space, we like to highlight innovative marketing strategies and find parallels that apply to radio. However in this instance, it feels like Lay’s is rolling out a gimmick, not leveraging a strategy.

Fumbling at the Goal Line

Personalization is certainly a hot buzzword and the ability to take a mass produced product and personalize it can be very powerful and quickly gain traction in the comfort of a conference room. However, a couple of key observations to consider.

Hope is a virtue, not a business strategy for a billion dollar brand. In a world of data analytics, there is no reason for Lay’s not to know their best Super Fans and Amplifiers by name.

Although it stands to reason that the people who take the time to upload a photo are likely to be fans of the brand, with the effort that went into modifying the production line, it’s a leap of faith that no longer is necessary.

Every day we help radio stations across formats and markets get to know their best P1s by name and their are agencies that do the same for consumer packaged goods.

Further, this customized bag is something that potato chip lovers would pay a premium to receive and send to their friends. Instead, Lay’s is giving them away and paying for shipping too.

Rather than focusing on getting these bags into the hands of their biggest fans, they are going to screen every submission to ensure people don’t upload an obscene or offensive image that the brand would then be associated with. With that said, a personalized Lay’s bag with an obscene picture would predictably generate what they are looking for, social media buzz.

Don’t let a tactic be confused for a strategy. Last year, when rolling out their new breakfast line up, Taco Bell identified 1,000 Super Fans and sent them a mobile phone, so they could engage them directly and offer challenges and incentives to be shared on social media. Read more about the execution of this strategy with the Taco Bell burner phone here.

Be bold and take risks, but don’t confuse gimmicks and buzzwords for a strategy.

For more insights on how to get to know your audience by name, send me an email and we’ll schedule a confidential assessment of your competitive situation.

Thanks for reading. – Andrew

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