Maintaining Loyal Fans

Stacy Taffet

VP of Brand Marketing at Pepsico Frito-Lay

Learning Objectives

Please join the VP of Brand Marketing for Pepsi Co. (Frito Lay) as she discusses maintaining & building strong brand engagement across varying consumer bases.


Key Takeaways:



  • Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your current role at Frito-Lay North America.

  • You lead a number of iconic brands within Frito-Lay like Cheetos and Doritos. Both of these brands have had incredibly loyal fan bases for decades. What do you think contributed to this success over the years? How do you continue to capture the attention of new generations, like Gen Z?

  • Can you share some initiatives that demonstrate how Frito-Lay pivoted its marketing strategy in response to the pandemic? How were you able to maintain strong brand engagement, within such a difficult year?

  • 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?

  • What changes, if any, do you anticipate to happen within the customer experience realm as we begin to enter post-pandemic life? Are there pandemic lessons/initiatives that will stick?


"We start by thinking about—we're not in the business of snacks, we're in the business of joy and making people happy."

Stacy Taffet

VP of Brand Marketing at Pepsico Frito-Lay

Transcript

Britt Erler

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Connect CMO Leadership Virtual Summit hosted on Quartz Network. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. Thank you so much for joining us. Please welcome our Executive Speaker here with us today, Stacy Taffet, VP of Brand Marketing at Frito-Lay North America, as she provides insights on how to cultivate loyalty by prioritizing the customer experience. Welcome, Stacy.


Stacy Taffet

Hi, Britt. So nice to be here.


Britt Erler

It is a pleasure to have you here and thrilled to dive into this topic today. Before we do so, please tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, and your current role at Frito-Lay.


Stacy Taffet

Sure. I’ve been with PepsiCo for almost 14 years. I can’t believe it—it’s been that long already. 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. Prior to that, I spent many years in beverages. My most recent role in beverages was leading our hydration portfolio, probably brand, Lifewater, Aquafina. Prior to that, I’ve worked on Pepsi, on Pure Leaf, really across the board on beverages. I started my career at American Express almost 20 years ago.


Britt Erler

Wow, that’s incredible. You really have had insight into how this industry has shifted, how it’s changed. As you mentioned, right now you lead a number of iconic brands that we all know and love, that I have personally in my home right now. Cheetos and Doritos it’s it’s incredible how personal You know, it gets with your home self. Both of these brands have incredibly loyal fan bases, and it really spans decades. Talk to me a little bit more about that. What do you think has contributed to the success over the years?


Stacy Taffet

I think one thing is the framing of how we even look at the business. We start by thinking about—we’re not in the business of snacks, we’re in the business of joy and making people happy. That’s the first way we look at everything we do on our 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 kind of 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 to 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 just 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.


Britt Erler

It’s incredible. The key to this is listening to your audience, really getting to know them on a more personal level. I think that’s something that all brands really need to be able to relate to. I want to ask you too because obviously, you have this amazing customer loyalty for years. People have known this brand—I mean, I’ve known in my entire life. We have this new Gen Z generation coming in, but obviously has different views, as you mentioned, and wants different things. It changes every single year. How do you stay up to date with that, and make sure that you’re constantly capturing the attention of these new customers?


Stacy Taffet

It’s a great point. I think using all the assets that are exposed 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, again, I think it sounds simple, but embedding the brands in the 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.


Britt Erler

Really immersing yourself into their lives, into that culture, as you said, is so crucial. It also opens your eyes to what trends, which rituals, are to come, especially in this generation. I think that leads into my next question as well. We’ve obviously seen so many shifts in the marketing industry. No question, I think it is one of the sectors that got hit the hardest in the pandemic we’ve seen. Does it change, week after week—I feel like every time I talk to executives. I want to hear from you, your experience, especially at Frito Lay, what were some of the initiatives that you and your company had to put in place to really alter your marketing strategy to fit this new virtual world that we’re seeing and also the needs of the customers that changed during the pandemic?


Stacy Taffet

We threw out everything, and started from scratch, basically, which is very hard to do when you have big businesses and you have planning cycles. Oour plans are not relevant anymore, we need to understand this new reality that we’re living in. We built a new brand plan for all of our brands that could deliver what people were looking for, and what people were seeking from brands in a very, very difficult time. A couple of examples of what we did. First, the restaurant industry and the communities around small business, and restaurants in particular, were really struggling. We knew we had platform on many of our brands where we could do something about that and give back to the industry. On Lay’s, we introduced a program called Lay’s Flavor Icons. We brought classic restaurant flavors like Nashville Hot Chicken, and Pizza flavor, and a number of others, and tie them to restaurants where we were able to give back to those restaurants. Drive awareness of what they were going through and also financially give back to them with the purchase of those flavors. That was a nice way that our brand was able to do something for a part of the community that was struggling at the moment. Another trend that we saw as we looked at what consumers were doing what was important to them, was not surprising, eating, cooking at home. Everyone was looking for ways to make their their cooking and what they could eat at home more exciting, more interesting, more fun, and easier. We started seeing that people were cooking with our brands more than they ever were. They were searching for rest recipes on what could I put Fritos in, what could I put Cheetos in. Just because they had them in the pantry and they want, right? It sounds simple. Searches for recipes went up 200% for all of our brands—it was incredible. We said, let’s do something with that to give people what they’re looking for in a fun way, so we published a Cheetos cookbook called Bon Appe-Cheetos, where we partnered with some exciting celebrity Chefs and Chester himself and publishes this great book, which had a charitable component when you bought the book, and also did a media partnership where we did a bit of a Cheetofied Cooking Show in a very kind of Gen Z way. It was all around highlighting and showcasing all the amazing ways you can cook with Cheetos. Everything from all the holiday staples, from the appetizers to the cocktails, and people loved it. We saw a lot of engagement around the brand, and it’s definitely a platform that we’re going to continue to build going forward.


Britt Erler

I think two of the most inspiring things you constantly have been mentioning here is number one: your massive effort to really get involved in the community, even outside of your organization. Obviously, everybody’s in the business to make money, but also at the tail end of that, you really have this culture of giving back just as much as your consumers are giving you. I think that’s such a case in point for this entire discussion here and why consumers are so loyal. On the other side of that, too, as you just talked about, you’re coming up with all of these creative ideas to keep your customers excited, keep them engaged, and coming back for more. That’s what I want to talk about next to you. Obviously, we’re in this new digital environment, in this new virtual world, where advertisements and new brands are coming out all over the place. I see probably hundreds as I’m scrolling through Instagram alone. My question for you is, how are you not only maintaining the followers that you have, but also making sure that your teams are always thinking creatively to help gain new fans and new 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 gave us an opportunity to just—it was fun for people to engage in and it allowed us to drive trial on our new product platform, and it was very native to that platform.


Britt Erler

I think moving forward now, a lot of executives are wondering, okay, you know, we’re in this new space, this new virtual world, where do I go from here? How do I make sure that I am moving my business forward in the right direction? Between you and me, I don’t think anybody has a solid game plan in place. I think there’s so many unknowns. Based on what you’ve experienced and what you’re seeing in the industry right now, what changes, if any, do you anticipate to happen with not only the customer experience, but also marketing as a whole as we enter this post pandemic life?


Stacy Taffet

I definitely think we’re going to be in the new normal. I don’t think the world, marketing, and food are ever going to go back to what it was before. Hopefully, that means we’re going to be in a better place because we’re going to take the best of some of the experiences we’ve had the last year and incorporate them into a more normal routine. A few things for marketing that I think are really important. The first is, is that point on authenticity and trust. I think people have been through a lot, and finding comfort and joy and trust in brands that they can rely on is really important. Building that relationship that’s all around the fan base, but it’s hard work to build fans and you need to constantly make sure that you’re building that trust and that relationship and being authentic and credible to what you stand for and what you believe in. I think that’s going nowhere, that’s only going to strengthen, which I think is a great thing for people and for brands. The second thing for me is, is home as the new hub. I think people have discovered that they can do a lot of things at home and be really efficient and get more better use out of their homes than they used to. The trends around cooking and using our brands and products in meals, because people are spending more time at home. That’s a trend that we expecting into new and we think it’s an exciting opportunity to give people new ways to experience food. The last for me is—we talked about a lot about digital, but the the marrying of content and commerce, I think is a really exciting space. As we can build our brands and offer opportunities to buy our products, at the same time and the same experience, is something I’m really passionate about. We’re building capability for going forward, so it’s very seamless for people.


Britt Erler

I think that’s incredible. I talk with a lot of executives, and they all come from your same standpoint. Number one, thinking outside of the box, always. What are some new ways I can always connect with consumers, something creative. Also. this idea of, once you put something in place, you have to be willing to evolve over time. This isn’t something that you can just put in place and say, “Okay, I’m done, hands are clean.” As you said, you constantly need to be evolving this, getting to know your customers, and really listening to what their needs are, and I think that’s so crucial, and obviously, why you guys have been so successful. As we wrap up this conversation today, Stacy, obviously you provided amazing insights for the marketing industry alone. Any final pieces of advice for Executives to make sure that they’re moving in the right direction, and also managing their teams correctly?


Stacy Taffet

I think you hit it before—it’s a relationship. 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.


Britt Erler

It is and I can’t wait to see how the marketing industry evolves even in the next six months to a year. I really think the opportunities and the options we have out there are endless. Stacy, thank you so much for being here and providing these insights. I think you’ve really paved the groundwork for these executives and how they can move their businesses forward, so appreciate you sharing your experience. Thank you to everyone who has joined us today as well. If you do have further questions for Stacy, we will have a discussion forum underneath this presentation. Thank you again for joining us and enjoy the rest of the Connect CMO Leadership Virtual Summit.


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