Super Bowl Ad, Chip Contests Show PepsiCo’s Deep Belief in the Crowd


What does PepsiCo believe in even more than Beyonce? The answer might be crowdsourcing.

Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show served as the main kickoff to its huge investment in the globally popular entertainer with a concert that some felt usurped the game itself. But the walkup to her much-anticipated performance used a highly populist approach that underscored PepsiCo-Frito Lay’s faith in the crowd as much as any pop star.

The bulk of the ad, produced by NYC-based Mekanism, featured a lightning-fast succession of Pepsi enthusiasts culled from more than 120,000 photos submitted to the brand via New York-based Olapic and Crowdtwist. Olapic collected and curated the pictures while CrowdTwist rewarded uploads through a point-based platform. Mekanism, as TIME puts it, took that material in a bid to manufacture “viral on demand” for the Pepsi brand.[more]

PepsiCo is no stranger to crowdsourcing as a bid to engage its target audience. In 2012, Pepsi’s first crowdsourced campaign — Pepsi Refresh — ended in Canada after a two-year effort that redirected the brand’s $20 million Super Bowl ad budget to a series of good works proposed by communities. The project was dogged by allegations that cheating manipulated some results.

But Sunday’s spot — and continuing crowdsource efforts by Frito-Lay — demonstrate just how deeply the brand has invested in the technique.

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, for instance, is also in the midst of “Do Us a Flavor,” a major U.S. crowdsourcing effort via Facebook that asks consumers to suggest a new Lay’s potato chip flavor. Three finalists are to be announced on Feb. 12th at the New York Stock Exchange with campaign ambassadors Eva Longoria and “Iron Chef” Michael Symon, with their suggested chips soon available for sampling in stores as part of a nationwide vote. The winner, to be named in May, will receive $1 million.

Just as Pepsi Refresh moved north of the border, Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” crowdsourced contest is now expanding to Canada (with a ‘u’ in flavor), with Hamilton, Ontario-born comic Martin Short as pitchman. (“Do Us a Flavour,” by the way, was the theme of a similar campaign by the Walkers brand in the UK back in 2009.)

Launched nationally with a commercial during the Super Bowl telecast there, the Facebook campaign is asking Canadians (who already enjoy the likes of ketchup-flavored Lay’s chips) to submit their dream Lay’s potato chip flavor idea for a chance to win $50,000 CDN plus 1 percent of their winning flavor’s future sales.

Entries, due by April 15, must include a name, up to three proposed ingredients and the inspiration for the chip described in a Tweet-ready maximum of 140 characters. Four finalists will be available in stores by August, with voting allowed until mid-October. 

PepsiCo isn’t just relying on crowdsourcing for engagement—it’s also making efforts to endear itself to consumers via mobile apps.

Its “Cheetos Mobile App of Massive Distraction,” unveiled on Monday, is its first-ever app for Apple products, and includes games like “Hover Cheese” in which players attempt to navigate Cheetos through an obstacle course. Consumers can also enter UPC codes from Cheetos snack packages to unlock special game features such as extra lives and mystery opponents, according to a press release

The move comes as Mondelez, PepsiCo’s rival in the food and beverage sector, is increasing its investment in mobile. Following its spin-off from Kraft Foods, the company’s new “Mobile Futures” campaign is pairing its brands with mobile start-ups to explore potential innovations, just as Kraft, Unilever, AT&T and other major brands are investing heavily in developing apps for utility and fun.