At first I thought maybe I was alone in associating Super Bowl commercials with the cheesy chips company. So I did a test and asked my coworkers the question I already knew the answer to. “What company do you most associate with Super Bowl commercials?” The answer—unanimously—was “Doritos”. What is it about Doritos’ marketing strategy that has proven so successful year after year on the biggest night of TV advertising in America? I dug into this phenomena, did my research, and watched WAY too many old Doritos commercials to find out.
The source of Doritos’ success is unsurprisingly its own consumers. Doritos mission aims to “re-define culture and support those who are boldly themselves”. Following this mission, for the 2007 Super Bowl, Doritos started their “Crash the Super Bowl” Contest which encouraged consumers to submit their own content to be featured in the Doritos’ commercial. One of the first winners was the iconic Crystal Ball Super Bowl ad which featured an office worker who wished for free Doritos, proceeding to throw the “crystal ball” (a snow globe) at the vending machine and snatching the now free Doritos. The insanely popular, fan-made ad placed #1 on the official USA Today Ad meter poll, winning the Super Bowl as far as ads were concerned.
The Crash the Super Bowl Contest went on for over 10 years until 2016, and it paved the way for user-generated content use in advertising. In using UGC, Doritos changed the course of TV marketing, bringing it back to the consumers to produce real, authentic content that the average person could relate to. The contest itself also did a great job generating hype for Doritos and the advertisements months before they even came out. Each year, thousands of amateur film makers sent in contest submissions and thousands more online users generated organic buzz about the competition on social media platforms. As a response, other big name brands like Ford Lincoln, Pepsi, and Newcastle Brown Ale created their own Super Bowl ads with UGC, following Doritos’ lead. Truly, Doritos began a new era of television marketing.
Doritos consistently produced hilarious content using its UGC method. Some of my favorite Doritos Super Bowl Commercials included When Pigs Fly, about a boy who goes to great lengths to make a pig fly in order to secure a bag of Doritos. Another great commercial was the Doritos Funeral commercial. A man fakes his death so he can eat Doritos and watch the Super Bowl in peace until he falls out of the casket and is exposed. These simple, out of the box commercial concepts created by Doritos consumers themselves continued to entertain Super Bowl viewers until 2016, when the company took a new turn in its marketing strategy.
Post 2016, Doritos kept up the pace by leaning into viral and influencer marketing tactics for their Super Bowl commercials. In 2017, Doritos hit the ground running with a rap battle featuring iconic actors Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage. Super Bowl commercials after featured performances from Chance the Rapper and the Backstreet Boys and a dance showdown between Lil Nas X and Sam Elliot. All these ads had one thing in common—the use of celebrities. Celebrity features boost viral and influencer marketing, which occurs when consumers are encouraged to share information about goods or services via social media and the internet. The use of celebrities in the Doritos commercials made them memorable and exciting, and as a result, millions of consumers talked about the ads online. Doritos’ success comes from its ability to create, rather than follow, marketing trends. If Doritos continues this string of advertising commercial wins, they will achieve Super Bowl success for years to come!
By Marley Niesz