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Even My “Favorite Brand” Does Social Networking

Once during an interview for a project management position at a branding agency, I was asked by the president of the company, “What is your favorite brand?” Dumbly, I the first thing out of my mouth was “Tostitos!”
I think I even surprised myself with this response. I had blurted Tostitos, a corn chip that I don’t even keep in the house anymore, I now I had to rationalize why I said it was my favorite brand – why I chose to say this over say, Butterfield Market, my favorite place to get gourmet groceries and coffee in a beautiful and unique to-go cup, Fredrick Fekkai, my favorite line of hair products that magically makes every day a good hair day, or Fragonard, my favorite French perfume, whose factory I visited on a romantic vacation on the South of France. These are brands that I could easily gush over, brands I’ve established a strong emotional connection with. But now I’d said Tostitos, and I had to defend it.

I quickly scrambled, rationalizing that to me, this was a nostalgic brand, something my mother has kept around the house since childhood. I said I loved their recent innovation with the bowl shaped chip (TOSTITOS® SCOOPS!® to be exact) ideal for dipping. When you open a fresh bag of chips, you always know what you are going to get – that fresh-bag-of-chips-smell, the perfectly formed unbroken ones on the top of the bag, the gratifying salty crunch when eaten plain, made even better when mingled with the picante sweetness of mango salsa or better still: a glob of guacamole.

Ok, ok, I’ve got to admit that eating Tostitos, makes for a pretty good “total brand experience.” While they’re no Target, Starbucks, or Mac in the branding department, they can still make my mouth water.
Since apparently they’re my “favorite brand,” my first instinct was to check out what Tostitos is doing by way of social network marketing as the topic for my first blog entry. What I found was kind of cool.

Last year Frito-Lay created a competition called “Race to the Bowl,” a marketing campaign that was tied to the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. Students from the competing teams, University of Texas and the Ohio State, submitted essays about why they were their school’s “ultimate fan, ” and Tostitos selected the 6 best from each school. The chosen competitors then raced from New York City to Glendale, Arizona, site of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, for a shot at a $200,000 scholarship. A series of challenges (including a contest of which team could paint the most people’s faces in their school’s colors) were documented on Facebook. Fans could follow the team’s progress, and the event culminated the night before the big game, with winners announced at halftime.

Through their Race to the Bowl campaign, Tostitos effectively utilized social media to create an emotional tie to their consumers. Tostitos are a fantastic football game snack. Championship games are hugely emotional events. “Ultimate fans” are hugely emotional about their teams. College aged kids invented the phenomenon that is Facebook. Tostitos linked all of these, created another layer of competition, and presto – the brand is utilizing social networking as a marketing campaign to create an emotional connection with their target.

So, while maybe at the time, “Tostitos” didn’t seem like the best answer to “what is your favorite brand,” they certainly seem to be utilizing social networking in their branding and marketing efforts.

To read more about the competition, check out: http://promomagazine.com/games/tostitosruns/
http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS38347+06-Jan-2009+PRN20090106
http://www.facebook.com/tostitosracetothebowl
http://www.fritolay.com/about-us/press-release-20090105.html

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