Brand Agility: The Frito-Lay Way


Like most consumers, I tend to skip or click past ads that don’t capture my attention within the first second.

Forgive me, I’m at the Millennial/Gen X cusp so I can’t help it, it’s ingrained in my cultural soul.

For me to sit through a commercial, especially on TV, it has to be either pretty funny or thought-provoking. Needless to say, this particular ad gave me ‘all the feels’ from the very first note and I tuned in.

Take a look.

The Frito-Lay campaign stands out in a sea of ads that are now focused on safety and non-contact delivery from brands like Amazon having to prove their employees are happy and countless pizza brands assuring me no one has contaminated the pie – all valid messaging considering the current situation. However, this particular ad was the first I saw that turned the tables on branding and leveraged the crisis to drive action.

Using an inspirational instrumental, powerful imagery, and foregoing voiceover for text, Frito-Lay crafted content to draw audiences into their new story and mission and start what seems a refreshed brand vision, for the time being.

Here’s what they did:

Frito-Lay suddenly became an impactful purpose-driven brand, changing its tune by dropping the humorous tone and adopting an active and inspirational voice. Frito-Lay took on the mindset of the world, which is one looking for hope and leadership during a period of uncertainty. The ad goes as far as telling audiences what they need. “The world needs brands to take action,” reads bold white type on a black frame.

This is not a new mindset by any means. In fact, a Sustainable Brands and Harris Poll research paper published in 2017 revealed that “77% of consumers say they have stronger emotional bonds to purpose-driven companies.”

Moreover, Frito-Lay developed a storyline that touches on current key concerns – safety, resources, and the economy. While there are still preliminary studies on consumer behavior during COVID-19, this recent Numerator survey shows that the brand is strategically speaking directly to consumer concerns in a powerful way – committing to support and strengthen our communities.

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This goes way above and beyond the traditional brand promise of being the most amazing snack at your next party.

While the campaign enforces that this is ‘not about brand,’ ‘this is about people,’ they are actually making viewers even more connected to the brand than ever before. The last Frito-Lay ad I remember was a commercial, just this past Christmas, featuring Ana Kendrick and an unapologetic ‘hard sell’ shouting how amazing Frito-Lays chips are.

Just 5 months later and Frito-Lay is seeking to end all our coronavirus worries. It’s as if Frito-Lay grew up overnight.

Taking it a step further, Frito-Lay is working to create a buzz – developing a campaign landing page encouraging people to learn more about what they are doing and what others can do to help. The landing page shows audiences that Frito-Lay, and partner company PepsiCo., are putting their resources where their mouth is – showcasing a commitment of more than $15 Million to beat COVID-19. The landing page also asks people to submit ideas or requests to capture leads and further develop meaningful relationships.

Frito-Lay is a great example of a brand thinking quick on their feet and shifting strategy to meet the immediate needs of its customers. Going as far as redefining brand image and messaging, this campaign shows that brands need to be extremely agile moving forward.

As the world begins to open up over the next few weeks and months, pay attention to shifting brand strategies and consumer habits…or you could subscribe and stay tuned as I keep you posted on the latest trends.

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