Monday, February 11, 2008

Doritos goes “deep branding” - music and marketing

(written Monday morning after Super Bowl XLII)

At a friend’s Super Bowl party, one ad stuck out, mostly because it’s the one that got a reaction from his 18 year old daughter. “Who is that,” she asked, wondering about the strangely passionate and peaceful music video that ran right after the first quarter.

It was Kina Grannis, 22-year old songwriter and winner of the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” music contest. Seriously... exposure on THE SUPER BOWL! Instant awareness to 90 million plus, and the curious will follow up. Oh yeah, a contract with Interscope Records was part of the grand prize.

When I got back home, I found a story on the Doritos campaign in the Wall St. Journal. This morning, I googled her name. A few thoughts:

On her website, she says "thanks" and that she'll be busy for a few days. (I'm thinking she's being wined and dined in LA today, first class flights, limos, hotel suite, lots of sucking up... kinda cool...)

She's got good graphic support. Most of her website is down, and she has no shows scheduled right now.

The myspace page is poppin'! 4 songs to listen to, and lots of love from lots of people. The 4 songs she has are strong, very well produced. I'm at 196724 plays. Check back tomorrow. I wonder what it was before last night. And she's a very good writer. Which is to say (a few things about kick-starting a music career):

1) The music is central, starting with the composition. Cover songs mean nothing to an artist trying to break in. Build your career around original work. How deep is the well? How many songs do you have in there anyway?

2) Presentation = production. Good arrangements and recording are almost equal to the audience. We're in the media age - get it? People have to hear the work, ENGAGE with the work. One of Kina's songs on her myspace page sounds like it was recorded over the phone. Interesting. Cute. Penetrating. Good production is worth whatever you have to spend on it. Don't scrimp on this one.

3) Get out there. Kina's support and fan base love comes from being in a community (was S. Cal., now Austin), playing in front of people, being nice to people, random acts of kindness. Collaborations. etc. Which is to say, if you want a public career, you will have to be OUT (to the limits of your soul, integrity, creative output - out-ness can be overdone too, so be careful).

A few thoughts about the Doritos campaign (as documented by Betsy McKay in the Wall St. Journal, 2/1/08)...

Doritos sales dipped in the early part of the decade, so Frito-Lay/Pepsico shifted direction. So a brand that's been around for 42 years isn't afraid to change its look. That's easy when your target is teens and young adults.

Jay Leno and Miss USA out. "Name that flavor" online contest, Stephen Colbert, and edgy on line music competition in.

Wisely, Doritos didn't lower itself to creating a jingle-contest. All we know about Gen-Y and Mosaics says they hate hype and bad pitches. The campaign director - 32 year old Rudy Wilson, avid video gamer who plays Guitar Hero in his office. (did you notice the background to Tom Petty's concert had arrows moving along guitar strings, very "Guitar Hero"-ish.)

The angle worked for me: bring "original music with a 'bold, intense' image, because they 'bring a passion' to their music, Ms. Mukherjee (Frito-Lay VP-marketing) says."

While the online music competition wasn't launched until later October, it caught on fast with the music industry and bloggers.

The concept took months to set up. It was not a "last-minute" idea rushed to the web. Today's fast-paced media world (easy-to-update social networking sites, digital video production) offers flexibility, and the ability to respond to market conditions, but nothing beats a well-executed idea with all the parts and players in position.

The Doritos music video got high and low marks from critics and viewers. ('s Alexander Wolfe raved. Slate panned it.) But in the communications world, two things matter: getting noticed (for good or bad), and moving merchandise. I guess it depends on how much you value the squishy notion of "branding."

Sales have turned since F-L tuned it’s approach. WSJ reports a 6.4% rise in sales in 2007. The price tag for the music video - $5M (which comes to a mere .3% of Doritos’ U.S. gross revenues of $1.7B).

When I'm at the chip aisle, I' tend to buy generic, unless there is some emotional, subjective "feeling" toward the cooler, more expensive chip. Kina Grannis won't make me hungry for chips, but her music might create a physiological response, over-riding my budget and allowing me to enjoy the premium brand.

Hedging its bet, put the Doritos “giant mouse” spot in its “Ten Best” for 2008 Super Bowl ads. It got out loud laughs (LOLs) from our crew too. So there you have it. “Deep branding” for younger, edgier set. Guffaws for us guys with da brats and beer bellies.

(photos by little grey-flickr,

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