South Africa: The Retail & Brand Landscape

As some of you may already know, I’ll be traveling to Cape Town this week for the 2016 Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum. This year’s theme is “Seizing Opportunities in the Face of Disruption,” and I think that South Africa provides a perfect setting for the topic at hand. The South African market is both young and ever-evolving, and I’m excited at the prospects for innovative disruption in Africa’s second largest economy.

South Africa has a tremendous kinetic potential both within its borders and spreading out to Africa as a whole. With its high urbanization rate, both current and projected, and a quickly growing middle class, South Africa is primed for continued expansion. In fact, some of the strongest evidence of this is SA’s 2011 admittance into what is now the BRICS coalition alongside Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

Framing this potential is South Africa’s unique patchwork of traditional and modern outlets, which are ripe for disruption and innovation; especially in the ways we can apply eCommerce and other methods to shift the status quo away from traditional commerce. Through various sources I tried to educate myself on what is happening with retail in South Africa. 

The traditional market is underpinned by the ‘Spaza,’ a uniquely South African concept that originated from the necessity of providing goods to residents dealing with the sprawl of the townships in the country. A small, informal convenience store, generally run from the owner’s home, these shops are spearheading huge growth in SA’s traditional trade sector, leaping from 31,000 outlets to 134,000 in the past two decades. They offer a built-in location convenience that few other outlets can match, and the numbers are clearly bearing this out.

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Besides the growth evidence, studies show that consumers shop at spazas, on average, four times a week. While they’re still using supermarkets for total shops, they generally only do those large buys once a week, showing the huge frequency advantage traditional markets maintain. Also, studies show that the average Spaza consumer, faced with the stores’ often limited selections, tend to decide very quickly on purchases. They are far more likely then, to purchase established brands, which creates a difficult situation for new brands attempting to gain a foothold.

Modern trade outlets are showing steady growth however, with over 4,500 outlets nationally; and 70% of SA consumers using them for larger shopping trips. But close to 50% of shoppers are still using the spazas for small, frequent trips and top-up shopping.

What can modern trade stores and brands do to disrupt this market paradigm and reposition themselves to compete?

We know that modern outlets offer both wide varieties of goods, and the ability to purchase those goods in bulk to deliver better prices to the end consumer. This will always be the case, but it has much more novelty in an emerging market. And while modern outlets will always struggle to compete with the proximity convenience of traditional stores, it’s important to note that SA internet accessibility has increased nearly 4% from last year, making it much easier for consumers to make online purchases and pre-decisions.

It also allows brands a way to create awareness that will translate to sales both in traditional and modern markets, while giving consumers a new way to interact with both the brand and the markets. While only about 52% of South Africans have internet access, this will only increase. These first-time web consumers will be able to take advantage of eCommerce at an ever-increasing rate, while being highly sensitive to novel promotions and concepts that web access can bring.

If modern outlets want to compete with traditional markets, they will have to appeal to this rapidly growing group of shoppers. By leveraging emergent internet capabilities, they can create convenience that rivals the spazas while offering options that can’t be matched by a corner store.

Likewise, the smart play for brands is to utilize the web to get out ahead of established brands that have no presence outside of traditional markets, creating a brand recognition that will literally have consumers asking for them by name, in both spazas and modern outlets.

With such a large potential for growth, there’s going to be plenty of room for both traditional and modern outlets moving forward. However, only non-traditional outlets have the capability or wherewithal to utilize disruption to create a jumping-off point for competitive convenience and focused brand appeal. To miss this opportunity could be devastating.

I look forward to experiencing this ever-evolving market place for myself, and can't wait to hear about South Africa from Zelda La Grange who served in Nelson Mandela's government & the legendary South Africa team's Rugby captain François Pienaarat at the conference.

Changing gears without losing momentum

“If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”
It’s a common mantra in many industries, but in marketing, this phrase is as good as a death sentence. In my view, you should always be thinking about the ‘next message.’ Consumer tastes are ever-changing, and as marketers we have to evolve alongside them.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with our Lay’s team for three amazing years on the Do Us a Flavor promotion. Along the way, we revolutionized the conversation between brands and their fans, and frankly, took flavor itself to new levels. It’s been an exciting ride, but it’s better to go out with a bang than the whimper of fizzling consumer interest.
Throughout the years, Lay’s fans have proven that they know, love and appreciate flavor, so this year we created a new program that would increase their influence from limited-time flavor offerings to actually impacting our core flavors. This evolution is what led to Lay’s Flavor Swap. We worked with our R&D team to develop some incredible new flavors, then we matched them up against four classic Lay’s flavors in a winner-takes-all showdown, leaving their fates in the hands of our fans. The winners will stay on the shelves, but the losers? Let’s just say their time in the spotlight will be fleeting. We’ve also created multiple avenues for consumers to vote, leveraging Twitter, Instagram, and even emojis to pick their favorites in each flavor match-up.

Speaking of emojis, we pushed a teaser campaign on Twitter, using emoji word puzzles to challenge our followers to guess the new flavors before the official announcement. This generated heavy consumer engagement and buzz, which fed directly into our digital campaign featuring the always funny Anna Faris, who lent her comedic talents to illustrate the ‘tough decisions’ our consumers will be making in the coming weeks. On a personal note, Anna was an absolute joy to work with, and committed to our concept wholeheartedly.
None of this would have been possible if we hadn’t stepped out of our comfort zone and mixed things up when nothing was ‘broken.’ As marketers, we should always be looking to stay ahead of the game, unafraid to step into uncharted territory. It’s natural to want to cling to the tried and true, but as marketing technologists, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of consumer interests, and never hesitate to rethink even our strongest programs. After all, momentum only works for you when you shift at your peak of power. 

Getting "out there" with Super Bowl 50

As a marketer by passion, one of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to hunt for the connective thread across Super Bowl ads. It’s not as if advertisers intentionally co-conspire, but, more often than not, patterns of uniform thinking emerge. Last year, we saw a lot of emotional work — celebrating dads, for example. This year, I think the dominant theme is “out of the box” or “out of the ordinary.” It seems like most advertisers are putting out spots that are a little bit edgier, a little more “out there.” For some brands, this approach is a natural fit, like Taco Bell showing elderly people getting tattooed and sporting bling, or Mountain Dew Kickstart’s pug/monkey/baby creation.

For other brands, this slant is a little more unexpected, like the campaign with George Washington palling around with Lil Wayne or Marmot’s, well, marmot “relieving” itself off the side of a mountain. If you haven’t seen it, take a look here.
Marmot is just one of many rookie brands who will take the stage this year. Out of the 41 total advertisers, 14 newcomers are looking to leave their mark, including LG, Pokémon, Colgate, Persil ProClean, Marmot, Amazon,, Shock Top, Bai, Buick, PayPal, SunTrust, SoFi and Quicken Loans. As a fan of Super Bowl marketing, I’m really excited to have some new blood in the running this year.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of the mainstay brands of years past are sitting out this year. Nissan, Ford, VW and Mercedes are hitting the bench. While many speculate about implications, I really don’t believe it’s any indication of Super Bowl ad interest declining. All of these brands had specific reasons to opt out this year. Nissan is leaning heavily into their college sports partnership. Ford, VW and Mercedes simply didn’t have any new news to justify the high price tag.

Will this new wave of far-out humor driven by a new crew of brands win with consumers? We’ll just have to wait until game day to find out. Oh, and go Panthers!

Here’s where my stats came from, in case you’re interested: 

Industrial Revolution 4.0: This revolution will be streamed

(Observations from the 45th World Economic Forum)

"The only thing constant in the universe is change."  

While this is a phrase most notably used in physics, I would argue that it just as accurately describes the reality of our business and marketing landscape. 

As we embark on what’s being considered the fourth industrial revolution, the prescription is clear: don’t just brace for change, embrace it. This shift is expected to bring so much change that even Professor Klaus Schwab (WEF Founder and Executive Chairman) stated in an article he wrote explaining the Fourth Industrial revolution, “business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.”

Perhaps before we go into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its implications on business and humanity as a whole, we should take a step back to look at the changes the previous industrial revolutions brought:

  • The first industrial revolution occurred around 1784 and used steam, water and mechanical production equipment to drastically improve and increase the use of machines for productivity and manufacturing.  
  • The second industrial revolution occurred around 1870 and used electricity to further increase mass production, resulting in the shift to a division of labor.
  • The third industrial revolution occurred around 1969 and integrated electronics and information technology (IT) to automate production.
  • The fourth industrial revolution is a further evolution of the third, which began at the transition of the new millennium and is characterized by the increasing fusion of our physical, digital and biological worlds.

And while some are scared of technology itself, especially the idea of fusing it directly into our daily lives and possibly even our biology, many people are more terrified of the change it represents.  

Humans vs Machines?

Erik Brynjolfsson (Director of the MIT Initiative for the Digital Economy) commented on this fear at the WEF, stating that “the biggest misconception I’ve heard here at Davos, and recently, is this idea that technology is going to come for all of our jobs and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

This fear is most evident in those whose industries have been affected by the disruptive nature of technology within their established business models. “Black Tuesday” earlier this week in Paris is a prime example. Taxi drivers blocked roads and set fires to protest the disruption to their industry by new entrants enabled by technology.

Of course, nobody likes to have their livelihood threatened, but the reality is that evolution is inevitable, and more importantly the advent of the fourth industrial revolution and digital technology will greatly enhance our lives overall at a societal level.  Sure, there will be growing pains, but ultimately the consumer will win in virtually every aspect, from saving money, thanks to more efficient supply chain management and production schedules, to enjoying highly-customized and more relevant user experiences across more products, services and devices.

Lean management taught us to remove the waste (muda) from our processes and organizations, and the digital synchronization of virtually every piece of machinery, from warehouse equipment to the refrigerator in your home, is allowing us to track, remove, and efficiently refine those aspects of waste that have been occurring in both our industries and personal lives.

The Human Touch

In addition to the technological and innovative side of the fourth industrial revolution and exponential technological advances, the WEF also focused on the human factor, most notably its impact on jobs, society and culture.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a speech in which he stated “we don’t want technology simply because it’s dazzling.  We want it, create it, and support it because it improves people’s lives.”

And to that effect, will the fourth industrial revolution be a net gain or loss to society and humanity in general?  That all lies in the eye of the beholder.  A forum report released at the meeting predicted that by 2020, 5 million jobs will be lost as a result of technological changes.

The driverless car seems to be an emerging technology that many of the biggest brains and brands have their attention focused on, but what will be the unintended consequences?

For we business leaders it seems to be an astounding leap forward, increased efficiency in our shipping times, reduced costs and less need for risk mitigation.  But what about the truck driver who is replaced by a driverless vehicle? Or do we look at the increased efficiency and growth potential as an opportunity to create different jobs, or more jobs in different arenas?

Again, evolution is inevitable. It’s what we do with it that really matters. 

A Marketer’s Dream

For marketers, the digital and informational impact of the fourth industrial revolution is limitless.  

Rather than the old world tactic of putting faith in small focus groups to accurately represent the sentiments of the larger population (which they never truly do based on the law of large numbers), technology is emerging that enables us to gather information directly from the consumers themselves. Want to know what each individual consumer truly wants, likes and, most importantly, purchases? That crystal ball is at our fingertips. 

But the other side of that same coin will be the ability for nearly every consumer to have a customized experience with their goods and services catered specifically to their needs and desires. This luxury once reserved for an elite few will be accessible to increasingly more individuals on the socioeconomic spectrum, and will likely be one day be available to all.


In the end, we know that it’s poor business practice to stand in the way of progress.  There are countless business school case studies depicting the fall of once mighty blue-chip corporations who thought themselves too essential in their customers’ lives to need to innovate or evolve.  

Maybe they thought the “poorly-positioned” new entrant to their industry was nothing to worry about, or were simply too set in their ways to invest in innovative technologies or to rethink corporate culture philosophies. Whatever their motivation, they are the focus of case studies for this reason: refusing to adapt to evolving technologies and cultural shifts never ends well for a company.

If the 45th World Economic Forum taught me anything, it’s this: the fourth industrial revolution is here, and it’s our job as the business leaders now to increase our output of innovation and thought leadership for the betterment of our future.

What we choose to do with these newfound technological advances is up to us, but we all share the same responsibility: to use them wisely and make the best choices, not only for our bottom lines but also for the good of our fellow global citizens. After all, no revolution happens without the people.


A few of my favorite CES things

Like me, I’m sure you’ve all been following the great innovations coming out of CES. I could talk about emerging tech for days, but I’d rather spend my time experiencing it on the show floor than writing about it, so I’ll limit myself to the three that have impressed me most so far.

First, I have to talk about the Kodak 8mm beta camera. I love this! It’s drenched in the kind of cool that only comes with nostalgic relics of a bygone era. As a film buff, I love seeing the push away from needing to shoot everything in increasingly crystal clear digital formats. There is a magical quality to the fuzz of film, and I can’t wait to see how the Kodak 8mm beta impacts young filmmakers and advertisers.

Next up, the Oculus Rift. I’ve been watching, waiting and hoping for years, and it’s finally paid off. I think everyone feels the same, seeing how the Oculus sold out in 15 minutes, even with the $599 pre-order price tag. VR is surely going to be the next quantum leap in customer experience marketing, and I am excited for what’s to come.

Last, but certainly not least, it looks like my dream car – the Tesla – has been usurped by the genius designers at Faraday Future. The FFZero1 looks like something straight out of science fiction films – like running the Batmobile through a Tron filter. But beyond its jaw-dropping good looks and monstrous 1,000 hp motor, this unrivaled super car is green friendly too. Who knows if we will ever see an FFZero1 on the road, but there’s no harm in hoping.

There you have it! If you’re at CES, let me know what’s grabbing your attention and imagination. You’ll find me tweeting about it all at @ramalytics

How to hijack with purpose

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 

We’re not here to debate the philosophy of reality per se, but this is a question I often ask myself as it relates to brands attempting to “hijack” cultural conversations. The answer I keep coming back to is no. Talking to a packed stadium about Chinese food when everyone’s there to watch a football game is the same as talking to an empty room. This simply doesn’t fly anymore. Gone are the days when brands could merely talk at consumers and call it a day. For your brand to successfully hijack the conversation in today’s environment, you must have a reason—one that feels genuine to your brand. 

In 2013 the London-based retailer Harvey Nichols set out to hijack the holidays—Christmas, specifically—with their campaign “Sorry, I Spent It on Myself.” They humorously advocated giving menial gifts for family and friends so people could spend more on extravagant things for themselves. By finding a way to break through and own selfishness at a particularly generous time of year, they hijacked Christmas in a brilliant way. Their big gift in return? A Grand Prix Lion.

Important as it is for brands to be self-aware and understand how they are perceived and how consumers want to interact with them, it’s equally important to stay culturally aware, to help inform when or when not to engage. Engaging without purpose looks random at best and desperate at worst. You become the fallen tree in a silent forest.

Chester’s purpose

Earier this fall, with the 2016 presidential election approaching, we couldn’t help but notice that the political landscape had become filled with loud candidates making promises in increasingly outlandish ways. The louder the candidate, the more attention they got, irrespective of their platforms. The political system was definitely ripe for some mischief—even a little disruption—to shake things up. Politics had become such a circus, that maybe even a cheetah could win an election. It just so happened that we had just the candidate… a mascot with a huge personality and an even better platform: change for snacks. 

“More pranks in politics.” That was the goal. And who better than our very own Chester Cheetah, to add some mischief into the political mix? 

Since every good politician needs a fitting launch point, we found the perfect opportunity for Chester to enter the political arena: the race for Mayor of Chester, Montana. 

We created a mock campaign that hit all the key areas of a real political campaign to parallel what was actually happening in the world. Chester took to Twitter during the month of October and filled his feed with hundreds of pieces of “Chester for Chester” content, live-Tweeted both the Democratic and Republican debates and even launched his own “Orange party” merchandise store, all with one intention: to win the hearts and stomachs of the people in a meaningful way.

In staying true to the process, we didn’t shy away from the dark side of politics either. We pulled in the real mayor of Chester, Montana, who was running unopposed for re-election and had a good sense of humor, right into a good old-fashioned attack ad battle. The result was plenty of healthy —and hilarious—competition. 

We even rallied folks in the actual town of Chester to become our political (and brand) supporters in the mock campaign.

At the end of the day, this faux political hijacking campaign was an exercise in letting go for everyone involved. A month-long real-time political program involves spontaneity and a relinquishing of control that would make most marketers crazy. Giving Chester a purpose outside of his most famous reason for being—working as a mascot for Cheetos—is a scary thing to do, but embracing this purpose in genuine Chester fashion was critical. There was no teetering on the fence, no dipping our toes in the pool. With hesitation comes confusion and usually an unclear story or reason. If we wanted to truly hijack the political conversation, we had to do it with purpose, shake things up and make a real splash—or crash, in the forest. 

Lessons from Ten Years of Crash The Super Bowl

Most of you have heard by now that we’ve decided this will be the final year for the Doritos® Crash the Super Bowl promotion (CTSB), marking the end of a decade of unprecedented industry recognition and success. For those unaware, CTSB provides consumers with the opportunity to create a Doritos® ad that might air during the Super Bowl, and is credited as being one of the first catalysts of the consumer-generated content phenomenon back in 2007. Like many marketing programs of significance, the story of CTSB -- from “almost didn’t happen” to celebrating its 10th anniversary -- is filled with interesting twists and turns, as well as valuable lessons that are worth sharing here.

Fight for Great Ideas

CTSB was created by our promotional agency, The Marketing Arm (TMA), and originally presented to the Doritos® brand team and PR executives in 2006. The initial reaction by the marketing leadership team was negative. They were primarily concerned that consumers would not be able to deliver creative that would be worthy of airing during the Super Bowl, by far the nation’s most important advertising platform. After considerable deliberation and debate, the brand team and TMA brought back the idea for consideration, and fortunately, it was approved.  

Don’t Play It Safe   
When Doritos® and TMA presented CTSB to the NFL for the first time, we learned that several other Super Bowl advertisers were planning to air consumer-generated ads. However, in each of these cases, the advertiser played it safe by limiting the role of the consumer and hedging their bets by having the ads filmed and produced by a traditional advertising agency. Doritos, on the other hand, gave its consumers complete control over creative and production. By handing over that trust to consumers to deliver outstanding ads, CTSB was widely recognized for transforming the marketing landscape. CTSB was the first program to truly empower consumers in a way that was authentic and meaningful.  

Stay True to Yourself

After the extraordinary success of the first CTSB program in 2007, which included a spot called “Live the Flavor” that finished 4th in the USA Today Ad Meter, the brand team decided to change the programming focus. In 2008, we asked consumers to create a music video instead of a commercial. While we are proud the music video that aired helped launch the music career of a very talented artist, it did not play as effectively as a brand advertisement aimed at generating brand equity.  Fortunately, Doritos also aired a consumer spot called “Mouse Trap,” created the previous year, that ranked 4th in the Ad Meter, which saved CTSB from extinction. This was the last time the brand would venture away from the core idea centered on consumer-generated commercials. 

These are just a few of the important lessons we’ve learned from this remarkable program, which has won every major industry award, generated over 32,000 ads for the brand from 31 countries, produced four #1 ads in the USA Today Ad Meter, and awarded more than $7 million to support aspiring filmmakers and passionate fans.    

Final thoughts from Cannes Lions

We have come to the end: this is my final report from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

It’s been overwhelming and inspiring. The sheer volume of work on display was daunting and I won’t pretend that I was able to see more than a small portion. But what I did see renewed my faith in the ability of like-minded people to come together to find creative solutions to some of our biggest challenges.

Much has been written about how some Cannes entries seem designed to be, well, Cannes entries. There were lots of PSAs and one-off projects that told a great story, but some question if they were really in service of a brand and its business goals.

But that strikes me as a cynical view. I saw a lot of great work that strived to add value to consumers’ lives. Great brands understand that adding value is the best way to get consumers to reach for them on the shelves. I’m all for marketing that puts more value into the marketplace.  

As the festival winds down, the final batch of awards was handed out for film and film craft, for branded content, and the “granddaddy” category: integrated/titanium. 

By the final days of the festival, some campaigns are well known, having collected awards in earlier categories, and this final batch serves a victory lap where they add more to their haul.  Campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, House of Mamba and #LikeAGirl (highlighted in earlier posts) received more top honors at the final ceremony.

Some other standouts: 

Emoji Ordering – The Titanium Grand Prix went to Dominos for this simple but smart idea: let people order a pizza simply by tweeting the pizza emoji. And kudos to the jury for celebrating an idea that actually sells a product. (Ironically, this campaign didn’t even shortlist in the “Mobile” category, which just goes to show how subjective this whole award thing can be.)

Clever Buoy – Talk about “adding value” for your customers, how about saving them from a shark attack? This clever campaign took home a Titanium award as well.  

RE2PECT – Nike’s impressive campaign that tapped into social media to showcase the love that players, celebrities and fans had for Derek Jeter at the time of his retirement took home the Integrated Grand Prix.

Un-Skippable Ads – A why-didn’t-we-think-of-that idea from Geico built on the simple, but revolutionary question, “What if we made a pre-roll ad that people didn’t want to skip after 5 seconds?” (And I like that a great insight about online/mobile behavior was the genesis of the Film category’s big winner).

Monty the Penguin – This charming holiday spot from John Lewis won the Grand Prix in Film Craft. A reminder that great storytelling combined with craft can lead to something special. This was also one of the most shared pieces of content last year.

Whether branded content or film or integrated, the best-of-the-best had a clear point of view, told a compelling story, was emotionally engaging and (here it is again) provided value to those who interacted with the work. It’s a great reminder of what we should look for whenever we marketers green-light new work. 

Many post-mortems will be written about what this year’s festival means for the future of advertising. The rise of ad tech and gender equality in advertising were two big themes this festival. But the biggest theme, for me, was the transformative power of creativity: what it can do for people and, yes, what it can do for brands. 

I’m grateful to everybody who helped make possible my first trip to the Cannes festival, especially the Frito-Lay team back in Plano who kept things rolling while I was away. I’m coming back with lots of inspiration and a new appreciation for what’s possible in our work together. 

Highlights from cyber, er, digital…or whatever we’re calling modern marketing

The anachronistically-named “Cyber” category is full of a wide range of work showing that the lines between traditional-digital-mobile-experiential are forever blurred. 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

Honda – The Other Side – This ingenious execution received a lot of deserved attention when it launched a few months back and it’s racking up wins this year at Cannes. This product demo feels like a feature film with a digital interface -- a technological marvel with a great story at its core. 

Nike – House of Mamba – The coolest basketball court I’ve ever seen. As Kobe Bryant himself said, “I didn’t even know this was possible.” For a brand like Nike, which has embraced technology to provide a better athletic experience, this was a real-world digital execution that perfectly manifested Nike’s core values. 

Samsung – Safety Truck – A great example of a brand using technology to improve the lives of its customers in a very direct way. As their case study proclaims, “instead of changing people’s lives, we’re saving them” – now that’s a big idea!

Deep dive on mobile

Regular readers of this blog know my feelings on mobile: it’s really the only screen that matters.

So I spent some extra time this week digging into the Mobile entries. There is an incredible range of smart, interesting work happening in the space. And yet, it still feels like we’re in the early days of really uncovering the full potential of the medium.

I think that’s one of the reasons that Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in Mobile (I wrote about it earlier on my post about ad tech).  Everybody is searching for the next big thing and those companies and brands that are pushing the medium into new territories are being rewarded.

Here are a few other favorites:

The Unforgotten – Heartbreakingly powerful work from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. This was an art installation with a mobile component, providing a forum for the physical and digital worlds to mesh, without any of the usual clunkiness. Mobile video made it come alive but it was woven together in such a way that the story was the story, not the technology.

Madden Giferator –  Built upon insights around how competitive football fans can be, this combined so many elements integral to mobile-social culture: second-screen commentary/banter, real-time content generation, memes, gifs, and more. And the brand was a critical element of the execution, not merely something tacked on at the end. This was also a great example of a partnership between a brand and multiple agency partners. 

Hammerhead – One of those ideas that you see and say, “Of course!” This product is a wonderfully intuitive use of mobile technology for cycling and an application that can make our roads safer. 

Inspiration everywhere you turn

There’s so much inspiring work to see and nowhere near enough time to see it all. The exhibition hall is jam-packed with so many ideas, ads and case studies that I know I’ll only be able to see a small portion of all that’s here to take in. 

To see the shortlisted and award-winning work, I encourage you to spend some time “wandering the halls” virtually on the Cannes site (Public access is limited to this week and a short time after the festival, so please visit soon).

Always #LikeAGirl – I’d seen this work when serving on the Grand Effie jury earlier this year and it’s still just as inspiring. It won a well-deserved Grand Prix in PR, collected honors in other categories and looks like it will be one of the big winners at this year’s festival. It tapped into a cultural movement and supported the cause, the hashtag was memorable, easily sharable, and it reiterates that the classic persuasion model is dead. You have to create content that consumers want to embrace.

Dove #SpeakBeautiful – Another entry in the long-running Dove Beauty campaign, this is a great example of using the power of social media to tap into pop culture and stamp out negative self-image tweets from women. Tactically, it was smart to center it around the Oscar broadcast, when so much attention is paid to the way women look. Oh, and it had a great hashtag. You know how I love a great hashtag.

The year of ad tech

In the weeklong hothouse of Cannes Lions, different themes, gossip and predictions rise and fall amidst the chatter between the seminars, after-award presentations, and the thousands of meetings that take place along the Promenade de la Croisette.

Certainly, the well-documented rash of media account reviews (more than 20 in the last eight months, representing between $17 and $25 billion in business) is a hot topic. Technology is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind this phenomenon. With the rise of online video and the maturation of mobile and social channels, we marketers want to be sure we have best-in-class partners as the media mix shifts. 

Plus (and this will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog) there’s a desire for analytics that more clearly demonstrate ROI. Marketers are seeking next-generation metrics that reflect real engagement and value, not just clicks or likes.

It’s also clear that ad tech is a major topic at this year’s festival. Long-time attendees tell me that the presence of vendors in the ad tech space this year is unprecedented. 

And that makes sense. The ad tech marketplace seems to double in size each year. Earlier this year, put out this vendor snapshot that confirmed that I wasn’t imagining the increased number of tech pitches I was seeing in my inbox.

Many of them are here at Cannes too. 

And it’s interesting to me that one of the early Grand Prix winners (the first four were handed out Monday) comes from one of the biggest players in ad tech: Google.

Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in Mobile, beating out thousands of app entries and digital ideas. The win was not without controversy: it was submitted directly by a client and not an agency and, technically, one of the most traditionally-technical prizes was captured by, well, a cardboard box

Ironic as it was, this illustrates what Cannes was designed to celebrate: innovation. This low-cost virtual-reality solution created a platform that opened the door for others to create their own ways to use technology. 

I’ve written before about how platforms like YouTube gave Doritos a chance to embrace a customer co-creation program like “Crash the Super Bowl.” To me, Google Cardboard is another such platform whose potential has been barely scratched.

As technology dominates more and more of the buzz at Cannes and beyond, it’ll be interesting to see which of these break out to become true game changers and which will simply be swept into the bells n’ whistles box once the dust and glitter settles. 

Seek innovation, not perfection

Later this week, I will not be sitting here: 

Instead, I will at the Cannes Advertising Festival observing, learning, and bringing lessons back from the most innovative work in the world to inspire my marketing department.

This will be my first time attending Cannes, so naturally I’m very excited about it. 

Beyond the rosé and the beaches (I hear that’s what they do in France, but I don’t drink) what I’m most excited about are Frito-Lay’s submissions to this year’s festival -- especially because they are all ideas borne out of a personal philosophy of mine:

“Imperfect action trumps thoughtful inaction.”

It’s a maxim that isn’t often followed in the marketing industry, but should be. Don’t wait around to make something perfect when you’ve got something great that you can run with today. 

Think about it. You usually know whether an idea is going to be great or not the minute you hear about it. So why spend countless hours iterating, perfecting, tweaking and over-thinking when you can perfect it as you go? The marketing landscape is littered with great ideas that never saw the light of day because perfection was the team’s goal, rather than success. 

You can’t have success if you don’t put something out there. 

I’ve talked about the 70/20/10 principle on this blog before. Originally covered in the Harvard Business Review, the principle refers to a balanced approach to innovation where 70 percent of a company’s efforts should be focused on core activities, 20 percent to adjacent ones (validated risk), and 10 percent towards transformational ideas. 

At Frito-Lay, we have applied this principle to marketing, and we have empowered our agencies and the marketing department to bring more 10 percent ideas. These are ideas that aren’t fully formed nor perfected, but they are different, game-changing, and great the moment you encounter them. 

I charged myself and our leadership team to approve more of those ideas and charged my teams with getting them quickly out into the world once approved. Modern marketing departments need to be full of idea makers, not idea iterators. 

This is how you are going to win in the digital world. Everyone is a creator. There are no boundaries. 

We are fortunate to have agency partners like Goodby Silverstein & Partners, OMD, TMA and Ketchum who also fully embrace this new world – they did it with Crash the Super Bowl early on – and they continue to do it as we explore new marketing territory. 

The most validating aspect of all this is the fact that all of our submissions to Cannes were 10 percent ideas. 

Enjoy a few of them below, and look out for more missives as I post from Cannes in the coming days.

Tostitos Chip Kelly 

Every Chip Gets a Dip Tostitos Campaign. Watch the ad here.

Doritos Boldest Radio

Cheeteau, the wonderfully cheesy fragrance that Chester Cheetah graced the world with on April Fool’s Day. See the ad below; see the Cannes Lions video entry summary here.

People want to engage with ideas, not advertising

When you walk away from a 19- year relationship with college football’s Fiesta Bowl to go “pro” with America’s #1 sports property, communicating that fact can be almost as difficult as the decision itself.

How do you announce something as epic as “Tostitos is now the official chip and dip sponsor of the NFL” and match the magnitude of that message with your actions?  It couldn’t simply be on TV, or even online. This had to be one for all the senses. It had to be all encompassing. It had to be an experience. Thus, Tostitos Party BLVD was born.

The concept: American Ninja warrior meets the ultimate party games.

From Wednesday through Sunday at Super Bowl 49, party met sports as Tostitos challenged fans to complete in a series of larger-than-life tailgate games, while capturing their team spirit with slow motion video, and helping them get their snack on with new Tostitos products.  The BLVD spanned two city blocks, and established itself as the ultimate party destination in downtown Phoenix.  Fans tested their speed, agility and humility as they tackled a variety of backyard party games, including:

  • Slingshot Blitz: A party game favorite reimagined as an arcade-style experience complete with surprising special effects. 
  • Double Dipper Dunk: A duel-themed twist on the classic dunk tank, this game invited participants to hit a target opposite them with a football, to “dunk” their opponent into a massive bowl of Tostitos dip.
  • Mega-Mecha Cornhole: The biggest and baddest game of beanbag toss anyone could ever imagine – a true test of man vs. machine. 

To fuel the competitive spirit, we outfitted participants with wristbands embedded with RFID technology to track their scores and power a “Giferator” that showed images and videos of them showing off their skills.  We also captured real time user-generated #PartyBLVD tagged images and videos to populate an online content hub.

Because a true party isn’t complete without guests who can bring the fun, former San Diego Chargers running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably one of the greatest players of the game (and a guy who knows a thing or two about an awesome tailgate party) and Chip Kelly, Head Coach of the Philadephia Eagles, joined the festivities. They interacted with fans, provided tips to game players, and even got in on the action themselves, challenging participants for top honors.

The “Big Games” may only have lasted a short while, but the bragging rights were forever, and I’m not just talking about the fans. With 1 billion fun-filled impressions generated, we know that people aren’t simply aware that Tostitos is the official chip and dip sponsor of the NFL. They’ve fully engaged with the “idea” of what Tostitos + NFL truly means. And that’s a game well played!


Creating of these games took over 1000 man-hours of custom fabrication and painting. 

  • The dip jars were 14' wide by 13' tall – large enough to hold 86,633 standard sized jars of salsa.
  • You’d need a Tostitos chip that was 6 ft tall to dip this jar of salsa.
  • The Pepsi cups were 3 ft tall and 2.5 feet wide at the top, which means they could hold 430 liters of Pepsi. 
  • The Double Dipper Dunk game platforms incorporated a two-story drop. Custom engineered and machined trap doors were designed just for this. 
  • An entire semi-truck was needed to transport all the foam needed for the padding and pit. 
  • At max pressure, the Mega Mecha Cornhole cannon could fire a beanbag over 80 feet – just enough distance to score the extra point after a touchdown.

Check out the timelapse video of Tostitos Party BLVD being built:

... and here are the games in action:

Before I sign out, I wanted to acknowledge the hard work, vision and creativity of my team members Jeff, Tyler, Pablo, Dana, Neha, Liza, Troy, and Christine, without whom these larger-than-life dip jars, cannons and slingshots would not have been possible.

Road to #SB49…CES to Super Bowl

Yes, 2015 is indeed here and we are all up and running as marketers. And the first quarter has been hectic, going from the first ever College Football playoffs, to CES, to the Super Bowl. I believe that the College football playoffs were long overdue. But it has been interesting to see the impact of the “New Year’s Six” on the incumbent BCS Bowl title sponsors. What is the role of the 75-odd bowl games moving forward? Three of the four sponsors walked away from renewing their contracts.  We were one of them, as the title sponsor for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. We have had a great relationship with the Fiesta Bowl committee for 19 years, so it was a tough decision all around. For us, it was about consolidating our brands around Pepsico’s #1 sports investment, the NFL.

I did not make it to CES this year. But a couple of things struck me watching the coverage from CES. It is no longer just geek heaven (former engineer and proud card-carrying member of Geekology, here). Marketers are keen to the fact that CES is where today's consumers come to find inspiration, experience innovation, and witness invention. It has essentially become the world’s fair for a marketing technologist. CES is where you start getting an inkling of what the public will want in the next couple of years and the impact that it will have on our brands. 

Mobile dominated this year's coverage. Safe to say game, set, match to mobile. Mobile is now our first screen -- it has finally arrived! Hardware is getting even cheaper and more capable. We are in the 3rd wave of the S curve. Devices are merging. TV/Phone/Camera/Watch/Tablet/PC....what is what? No doubt this is going to accelerate creativity and innovation. 3D is going through a 2nd generation update, both in 3D graphics and 3D printing. Tech was always cool, but thanks to Apple’s rebirth it has now crossed over to “chic." 

The amount of  high-end wearable devices that debuted at CES was astonishing. I remember reading that the Swiss watch makers were not feeling threatened.  Interesting... if I were in their boots, I would be shaking. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the Millennial and Gen Z generations will pick smart devices over the designer watch that “only” tells time.

Tostitos RFID wearable tag in use at #partyblvd

Tostitos RFID wearable tag in use at #partyblvd

Thanks to my daughter,  I am getting familiar with Snapchat. And I have to tell you I am getting more and more intrigued with the brand storytelling possibilities that this platform represents. The “Stories” product is brilliant and its usage during the Detroit Auto Show was a breakthrough.

These are quick missives for now from the field, as my team prepares for Frito-Lay's  Super Bowl marketing activities. Gathering more thoughts from my "game within the game" perspective for my next post on the road to #SB49.