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How to Treat Customers Like Your Biggest Fans

Stacy Taffet

Stacy Taffet

VP of Brand Marketing at Frito-Lay

Stacy Taffet, Frito-Lay North America

When you make the effort to truly understand what’s important to the fans of your brand, your marketing efforts will be more successful and authentic.   

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Stacy Taffet, VP of Brand Marketing at Frito-Lay North America, to discuss how to cultivate loyalty by prioritizing the customer experience.  

Stacy offers insight into: 

  • Reframing how you look at your business to serve the fans of your brand 
  • Connecting with your customers in unexpected ways that bring them joy 
  • Making data-informed decisions 

Quartz Network: Can you tell us a little about your background and your current role at Frito-Lay North America? 

Stacy Taffet: I’ve been with PepsiCo almost 14 years. My current role at Frito-Lay is looking after some of our most iconic brands. I have the Lay’s brand, Ruffles, Cheetos, Doritos, just to name a few. It’s such a pleasure to be able to work on those brands. Pior to that, I spent many years in beverages. My most recent role in beverages was leading our hydration portfolio which includes Lifewater and Aquafina. Prior to that, I’ve worked on Pepsi, on Pure Leaf, and really across the board on beverages. I started my career at American Express almost 20 years ago. 

Quartz Network: What do you think contributed to the success of iconic brands within Frito-Lay like Cheetos and Doritos over the years and how do you continue to capture the attention of new generations? 

Stacy Taffet: One thing is the framing of how we even look at the business. We start by thinking that we’re not in the business of snacks, were in the business of joy and making people happy. That’s the first way we look at everything we do on our brands. Then we reframe. We’re not in service of consumers, we’re in service to fans and building fandom for these brands.  

There’s a couple of ways that we do that. The first way is just being obsessed with the fans and getting really, really close to what they love, what they don’t love, how they use our brands, how they feel. Then responding in unexpected ways that bring them joy. I can give an example or two on Cheetos, which is a brand with a cult following, just tons of fans—I love that brand. A couple of examples when we got inspired by our fans, and then delivered something to them.  

The first was, we did a lot of social listening and monitoring, and we saw that people were finding Cheetos that look like certain figures in history or certain shapes. They were talking about it constantly, and it brought this community together. We created the Cheetos Museum out of that, got inspiration from what people were doing, and created an experience about Cheetos that actually look like famous people or moments in history and culture.  

Another example was we noticed a behavior about where people were crushing up Cheetos and putting it in Mac and Cheese. This was starting to gain traction, and so we said, “Well, wouldn’t it be easier if we just gave them Cheetos Mac and Cheese?” We introduced that last year, it was a phenomenal success. It’s still in the market today. We continue to do that. We just look at what our fans are doing, what they’re looking for, and we respond. That’s the first thing—sounds simple. I think when you when you do it, it really pays dividends.  

The second is authenticity. The values that your consumer has and your shared sort of values and point of view in the world. A current example on Doritos is, we are now using our media and our platform to amplify black voices that are changemakers in the world. This brand is all about igniting bold self-expression—that is our purpose. We want to celebrate people that are those changemakers, that are making positive change in the world. We’re putting our resources, and our media, and our platforms against highlighting some of those most amazing boldest changemakers out there. We continue to do that on all our brands, look at ways where we can really add value to what people care about, what our consumers or fans are really caring about in the world. 

Quartz Network: In an increasingly digital world constantly vying for consumer attention, how are Doritos/Cheetos working to retain loyal followers and gain new fans in unique ways? 

Stacy Taffet: We use all the assets that are at our disposal, all the data that we have today, to get really, really close to the consumers. We do a ton of social listening, we do quantitative research, but then we go spend time with our consumers and live in their world, in their communities. It helps unearth some really interesting insights, so that’s the basis.  

Being where they are, I think it sounds simple, but embedding the brands in culture of where Gen Z is living and behaving today, is critically important. I look at Doritos, and we’ve been in the gaming community, in the gaming world for many years. When we’re on a platform like Twitch, it’s not a branded ad that you’ll see. We are on Twitch, building tournaments and partnering with gamers. It’s embedded in that. It’s part of the experience. It’s endemic to the culture. It doesn’t feel like advertising, it doesn’t feel like marketing, because it’s just being part of the community that Gen Z is living in. 

Quartz Network: How do you maintain your followers while also making sure your teams think creatively to gain new fans and followers along the way? 

Stacy Taffet: It’s a challenge, because we almost have so much data now, it can be overwhelming, and it can be too much. There’s a few things I would say—using data in a way that we really understand the different groups of consumers that we have, and how to tailor the right content, messages, platforms, products to the right consumers at the right moments. We’ve never been more prepared with data than we are today. I think it starts there, which is really exciting.  

The second thing for me is, making your creative really native and successful to the digital environment that people are in. We’ve come a long way there on platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, where it’s a different way of creating content. It’s a different way of engaging than we’re traditionally used to, but by understanding our fans, by understanding our audience and what they’re looking for, I think we’ve been able to find ways where we can be successful.  

We had a really successful Super Bowl, but one of the things I was most proud of on Cheetos, was a program called Snap to Steal. Every time you saw our ad on Snapchat, you could snap the product, and we sent you a free sample of our Cheetos Crunch Pot Mix. It was fun for people to engage in, it allowed us to drive trial on our new product platform, and it was very native to that platform. 

Quartz Network: What advice do you have for executives to ensure they’re moving in the right direction and managing their teams efficiently? 

Stacy Taffet: If there’s one thing I would leave everybody with, it’s think about building an actual relationship with each consumer, each customer that you have. Between your brand and that person, and that the basis of that is trust, but it’s also being where they are, with something they want. Whether that’s content or your product or an experience, I think that’s the future of marketing. It’s not going to be about putting a message in front of somebody, it’s going to be about adding value to their lives and building a relationship with them. I think that’s a really exciting place for us all to be. 

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