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.

Bringing Art & Science to #SB49

“Active” Art
To generate awareness and excitement for Tostitos Party BLVD across the Phoenix metro area, and get people talking about the biggest party in America, we unveiled larger-than-life Tostitos art installations in two of the most highly trafficked malls in the area. The installations drive engagement by inviting the consumer to ‘complete’ the art. To promote sharing and conversation across social media channels, consumers are also encouraged to take pictures and share their “masterpieces” with the #PartyBLVD hashtag for a chance to win a year’s supply of chips and dip.

iBeacon location sensor

iBeacon location sensor

Mobile FTW!
Tostitos is also one of the first brands to incorporate seamless mobile engagement through the use of iBeacons. Through iBeacons placed at the art installations, the ASU campus, light rail locations, sports bars and other high traffic areas, we are pushing coupons and promotions triggered by users’ locations to drive awareness of PartyBLVD. 

Kudos to my team members Ashwin, Liza & Dana, a.k.a. the Frito-Lay “bold” marketers, for pushing the 10 in “70-20-10” (70% tried & tested, 20% validated new, 10% inventing-the-future “new”)

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.