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Frito-Lay: Brand Expansion Without Cannibalization
By: Ron Romanik
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Frito-Lay and parent company PepsiCo try out so many different marketing ideas that you’d think one of them would eventually backfire. Not many have. From allowing Doritos fans to create Super Bowl commercials to adding new brands that target upscale snackers, Frito-Lay manages to extend its reach at the edges while satisfying the wide middle of its core customers.

The company has responded to healthier eating habits with Baked and Natural lines and, recently, the company introduced brands that are aimed at higher-end snacker tastes as well as bottom-end “value” seekers. As reported by the New York Times, Frito-Lay has recognized the “bifurcation” of its consumers and has adjusted their business models to have more gradual product introductions in the future.

Somehow, the Doritos brand is so strong that flavor varieties can come and go with little fanfare yet increase sales overall. It’s possible that the short-lived Guacamole flavor was one minor misstep, along with also-discontinued Smokey Red BBQ and Pizza Cravers varieties. There is a Get Guacamole Doritos Back Facebook page, however, but it has only 283 Likes.

Over the years, the brand has even put mystery flavors on the shelf, either asking customers to name them or vote with their wallet on which of two new unnamed flavors (“A” or “B”) to “save,” as it did in Canada several years ago. In the U.S. a mystery flavor called X-13D had many fans stumped as to what the Doritos had in mind. (Was it cheeseburger-flavored, as many guessed?)

This past winter the brand put Limited Edition retro Doritos Taco flavored chips on the shelves in their original package designs from 1967. Doritos also embarked on a successful cobranding effort Doritos-shelled Locos Tacos at Taco Bell. The power of Doritos seems to have no limits as quarterly reports indicate that the brand has reversed the declining sales of the fast food chain. As these initiatives show, there are many ways to refresh the brand, engage loyalists, and just plain have fun without cannibalizing the core brand assets.


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About the Author
Ron Romanik is principal of Romanik Communications, a brand consultancy outside Philadelphia founded with a mantra of “Authentic Stories. Resonant Tones. Sustainable Brands.”
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