Social justice or social media? How will Doritos Rainbow campaign affect the company?

By Hal Conick contact

- Last updated on GMT

Will Rainbow Doritos be positive or negative for the brand?
Will Rainbow Doritos be positive or negative for the brand?
Doritos Rainbow chip campaign in support of gay teens has drawn both praise and ire from consumers, but one Mintel analyst believes it was a great way to target a younger audience and gain national attention.

Frito-Lays’ Doritos brand partnered with the It Gets Better Project, which aims to celebrate and support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens facing harassment, bullying and suicide, to create Doritos Rainbow chips.

It was a limited run of the product with each chip as a different color of the rainbow pride flag​.

Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel Food and Drink, told BakeryandSnacks it was an interesting idea but questioned how committed the company actually was to the cause.  

Going after the target audience

Mogelonsky said Doritos target audience, those aged 12 to 17, are the most accepting of people different from them.

“Within two to four years, no one is going to think twice about it,”​ she said. “[The younger audience is] the most likely to say ‘We don’t care'. For that reason it’s going to fade, but it’s an interesting campaign.

“It’s not just ‘Let’s all support LGBT issues’,”​ she said. “The campaign was supporting a very specific issue, and one that was aimed at teenagers, the group most likely to accept people of different persuasions. It was a cleverly crafted message … They’re supporting teenagers; it’s a careful positioning knowing the target audience. It’s a really good idea.”

Those who wanted the chips had to donate $10 or more to the It Gets Better Project, but the bags have sold out.

Mogelonsky said they don’t seem to have another run planned, but Frito-Lay and Doritos seemed to have already received “lots of publicity” ​from the idea.

Will the campaign have a long-running impact on the company?

Ram Krishnan, chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay, said the company wanted to show its commitment toward equal rights for the LGBT community and celebrate “humanity without exception.” The brand has taken to social media, asking followers to tweet the hashtag #BoldandBetter in support of the campaign.

Mogelonsky, on the other hand, is dubious about whether the company actually cares about the cause or simply wanted to cash in on the moment. The product isn’t being sold in mainstream stores, so she does not believe the company has “put its money where its mouth is”.

She noted there have been a few other companies to come out in support of gay rights, such as Ben and Jerry’s​ and Oreo​, but it has only been through limited-run products, social media and other advertising.

“That’s the one thing that bothered me about it,”​ Mogelonsky said, noting the quick run of the chips. “They really didn’t make a commitment to a cause, just a passing commitment…They’re getting a lot of attention with their rainbow chips, but how committed are they? Are they just testing the water?

“It circles back to the fact that it was a limited campaign. ’Let’s make a big splash,’ but the whole splash ended up being about Doritos. It makes you wonder and skeptical [if they were doing it for the right reason].”

Financially, there’s only one way to see the kind of impact this will have on the company: Wait and see what Doritos and Frito-Lay sales do in the next quarter, said Mogelonsky.

While people have expressed outrage and support on social media, only time will tell whether the company made a mistake or a great move attaching to the issue of gay rights, she said.

Mogelonsky believes Doritos is such a secure brand that they could risk the scorn and possible backlash. For a smaller company, coming out in support of a controversial issue may have been a bad idea, but Doritos has the cachet to take calculated, albeit small, risks such as this, she added. 

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2 comments

Awareness is key

Posted by David in New Hampshire,

I'm not concerned about the company's motives - frankly any way the message of tolerance, and acceptance can be promoted is a good thing. Remember -TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT! Suddenly I'm craving Doritos...

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Doing it for the right reason?

Posted by ACE Attura,

If this campaign saves ONE LIFE -- prevents even just ONE young LGBTQ person from taking his/hir life -- it will be worth more than ALL the money in the world

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