Lay’s | Doing Marketers a Flavor

Lay’s, a division of Pepsi Co, has been a major producer of potato chips for 75 years. Losing market share to competitors who were doing a better job marketing to millennials, Lay’s enlisted the help of Public Relations Firm Ketchum, a public relations agency in New York City, and Energy BBDO, an advertising agency in Chicago. These agencies collaborated on an award-winning campaign titled “Do Us A Flavor” which sought to marry marketing and public relations in an effort to bring millennials back to the brand.

In 2012, Lay’s promoted a crowdsourced contest where fans submitted their ideas for new Lay’s potato chip flavors. After 4 million submissions, the top 3 flavors were chosen for production: Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken and Waffles and Sriracha. O’Brien (2014) writes of the public relations tactics used in the U.S.,

“After the finalists were unveiled on giant screens in New York City’s Times Square in July, the company distributed the first free samples from a Frito-Lay delivery truck. The following month, Uber customers were able to enter a code on the taxi service’s app and receive a picnic basket that included the finalist flavors. Additionally, Frito-Lay used pedicabs to deliver chips to tweeters in various cities.”

These events garnered a great deal of attention in the media. In addition to these public relations tactics, Lay’s asked the New York Stock Exchange to host the unveiling of the top three flavors.

Lay’s also recruited celebrity chef Michael Symon and actress Eva Longoria to participate in the “Do Us a Flavor” campaign. Lay’s installed a pop-up store in New York City’s Time Square and enlisted Symon’s and Longoria’s help to pass out chips. The grand prize ($1 million) winner was announced in Longoria’s restaurant in May 2013. Because there was a great deal of interest in the contestants, particularly the finalists, newspapers were abuzz with stories about the contestants.

The U.S. was not the only place to see an uptick in public interest. The British snack manufacturer for Lay’s, Walkers Crisps, participated in the global campaign (under the title Do Us A Flavour) and also used out-of-the-box public relations strategies. Walkers recruited Gary Lineker, a popular British soccer player, to distribute bags of potato chips from a specially-made vending machine. The catch? London passers-by had to “Tweet to Eat” chips.

In addition to using traditional PR tactics, Lay’s promotional campaign flourished with the use of social media. In the U.S., Lay’s limited contest entry to submissions via Facebook or text. A Facebook app was developed so fans could create and post their favorite flavors. In the Canadian contest, Bird and Colucci (2014) write that participants were to “tweet about their entry”. An automatic update was then “posted to participants Facebook timelines”. From that point, posts were open for comments, likes and shares “spreading the reach of the contest” (Bird and Colucci, 2014). Using crowdsourcing via social media to lays-new-31-590x630engage the millennial audience worked to boost the brand equity among this target audience. Wilson (n.d.) concludes, “The results of the campaign were impressive. Within the first week of the campaign, PR generated 1,500 media placements. In the end, the contest generated 3.8 million submissions, nearly 5 billion PR impressions, more than a billion Facebook impressions and a 12 percent increase in sales.

The only public relations tactic left on the table was cause marketing. Given the reach of the campaign, Lay’s would have been wise to incorporate their ongoing support of Feed the Children, the American Heart Association or the United Way into their campaign. They might yet. Lay’s is currently in the middle of its second U.S. “Do Us A Flavor” campaign, which is even more successful than the first.


Bird, B. and Colucci, A. (2014, May 9). Creative crush: Love at first bite? Matchstick. Retrieved from

O’brien, M. (2014, October 17). Update: Frito-Lay turns to social media to pick new chip flavor. ClickZ | Marketing News & Expert Advice. Retrieved from

Walkers Crisps. (2014, September 9). Walkers Crisps put Gary Lineker inside a Twitter vending machine. [Video file]. Retrieved June 29, 2014 from

Wilson, Jeff. (n.d.) When developing consumer contests, Simple is often best. The Buzz Bin. Retrieved from

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