What Doritos® Bold Flavor Experiment Can Teach Us about Audience Engagement

Doritos Bold Flavor Experiment: Test Flavor 855


Summer has arrived and with it some interesting new product offerings and contests. Those of you who know me know I try to eat somewhat healthily but when I saw the relatively unassuming silver bags numbered and labeled ‘Doritos® Bold Flavor Experiment’ I knew I had to make my voice heard. We selected, we tasted and we voted. While letting customers sample new flavors of snack chips is hardly trend-setting or novel, the Bold Flavor Experiment with its bags of numbered test flavors, daily giveaways of gold and online voting is the product of creative thinking about audience engagement. So what can we learn from the Doritos® Bold Flavor Experiment?

Here are four possible takeaways to consider as you think about ways to engage your audience:


1) Use mystery, learning and discovery to your advantage.

Finding a way to incorporate mystery, learning or discovery into your campaign can be an important way to engage your audience with your story or encourage a particular action. Doritos® kept the flavor details for each bag a secret leaving only the ingredients list as the sole clue. “Want to join the experiment? Open the bag.” How can you utilize discovery, learning or mystery? Can you challenge conventional wisdom or facts? How do you make your case in such a way that the invitation to take the next step is hard to pass up?


2) Give your donor or customer influence and input that matters.

Are there ways to use your digital experience as a ways to engage your current supporters in an ongoing dialogue that has real impact beyond the perfunctory questionnaire? What should we focus on? What can we do better? Rank these possible initiatives, etc. Setting false expectations is worse than not asking for help in the first place so don’t ask for input if you don’t intend to use it or can’t honestly describe how you are. Finding creative and meaningful ways to engage your stakeholders and donors online beyond the standard asks should be a priority for the digital team.


3) Create space for experimenting.

We see a growing need for fostering an innovation-oriented space inside the organization to test new approaches to communications (digital and traditional), messaging, growth and engagement. You can start small and informally but eventually your initiative can become a laboratory and proving ground for organization-wide marketing initiatives.

For the past several years, CiV has had an internal Labs approach to try and tackle specific problems. We have even released some of these tools — such as Tweetalist — to the wider world . Launched in 2011, Tweetalist provided insights into key components of Twitter influence using private lists and it was featured in an Advocacy Media study of Twitter followers via private lists among 2012 Presidential candidates.


4) Make it fun.

We know that many issues our partners and clients address are serious ones. We’d still encourage you to make it fun and enjoyable where you can, though. We do believe there are storytelling techniques to make the user experience more memorable by making it more fun. Providing an entertaining and engaging digital experience doesn’t have to make light of heavy problems but can if carefully integrated more effectively bridge supporters to participating in solutions.

Speaking of fun, below are the results of our own internal Bold Flavor Experiment:

Results of our Bold Flavor Experiment

In our endeavor to be scientific in our approach, we needed an extra bag or two just to make sure our findings would stand up to scrutiny. Ha. After careful sampling, we are pleased the report the following results:

Third place: Test Flavor #2653 (Blue)

It took us a few tries to figure this one out and we’re still not entirely sure we did. It has strong hints of chipotle and chocolate in it so maybe they are aiming for a smoky Mexican mole flavor profile or the taste technicians simply wanted to see if testers were paying attention. Either way it takes a few chips for your mouth to sort out what’s happening and since we are talking corn chips and not a Chilean red, we think Frito-Lay should go back to the drawing board.

Second place: Test Flavor #404 (Yellow)

Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos rebooted with some nice cheese ‘notes’ added. Good balance of heat to cheese but a bit on the sweet side overall for our testing crew. Still it was down to the wire between yellow and the winning back which was…

First place: Test Flavor #855 (Red)

Spicy cayenne meets sour cream. A good bit of flavor going on here and by far the tastiest of the bunch without the sweetness of the other two offerings. After a few chips, your mouth might heat up more than a tad so you may want to use the one of the other chips to bring down the temp. We think Red and Yellow could be combined to make (apart from the color Orange) a great Doritos Collisions offering.

D.J. Smith is the Founder of CiV Digital. He encourages you not to rest until you find snacks with bold, uncompromising flavors. To that end, he is happy to share his recipe for his infamous spinach, almond butter & coconut milk smoothies.

Tried the Doritos Bold Flavor Experiment?
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