NEW YORK — Can a positive message, including a tie-in with a nonprofit as well as personalized packaging and a pop-up funhouse, put smiles on the faces of millennial consumers? The Lay's potato chip brand hopes so.
At an event in New York City Wednesday evening, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division celebrated the launch of a campaign for Lay's aimed at spreading smiles around the country. Called "Smile with Lay's" and created with the agency The Marketing Arm, the effort looks to court millennial snackers, according to marketers involved in its creation. It will do so through TV ads, personalized packaging, a partnership with the nonprofit Operation Smile and brand ambassador Jordin Sparks, and a three-day pop-up experience in the heart of Times Square, which Marketing Dive had a chance to visit before it opened to the public.
"We wanted to do something really big to make a statement to have people know that we're launching this campaign," Lori Thelen, SVP of accounts services at The Marketing Arm, Lay's agency of record for consumer engagement, told Marketing Dive at the event. "We wanted to do it in a place that's going to get a lot of attention — Times Square — and invite people in to have an experience beyond the one in stores."
The effort reflects the brand's research showing nine out of 10 people feel happy when they see someone smile and that 95% would smile more often if they knew it could brighten someone's day. As such, Smile with Lay's is an attempt to tie into the current zeitgeist that people are currently unhappy about a number of things in American society and need something to smile about. The brand's marketing folks also appear to be following common wisdom about millennials that experiential marketing, cause marketing and personalization can be a more effective way to make a connection than traditional ads.
Lay's Times Square pop-up is spread across several rooms with different stations that create an oversized play space effect through activities like a ball pit — increasingly popular at experiential brand activations ; a mechanical surfboard; an indoor swing; a jumbo-sized Mr. Potato Head toy, complete with removable parts; and a 360-degree camera platform that's accompanied by blasts of confetti and shoots slow-motion video visitors can share online. The experience opens to the public today, Feb. 8, and runs through Feb. 10.
Next week, Lay's will additionally roll out TV spots for the effort and its partnership with Operation Smile, which helps provide safe surgeries to children born with cleft conditions. Musician and actress Sparks, along with a selection of influencers, will promote the campaign. From Feb. 12 to April 7, consumers can also find different varieties of specially-designed packaging featuring diverse smiles on the bag at select retail locations. Every bag purchased puts a donation toward Operation Smile, with a $1 million total.
"When you're talking to a millennial audience, what we've heard from them and what we've heard from our consumers, is that having that bigger reason behind something is really critical," said Joan Cetera, head of public relations for Frito-Lay, about the cause backing the initiative.
The brand is throwing in a dash of personalization to try to tap into a young audience as well, letting internet users upload a new or preexisting photo of their faces to its website to get their grins printed on a bag of original plain Lay's chips starting later this month. Lay's is encouraging snackers to share photos of themselves with the specialized packaging on social media via the hashtag #SmileWithLays.
"Personalization is important. Millennials want customizable, ownable experiences, but beyond that, we want to encourage people — you personally — to smile," Thelen said. "It creates a one-to-one connection."