Case Study: Doritos Caters to Gen Z with TikTok Hashtag Challenge and Influencers

The snack brand bet mainly on user-generated content for its 2020 Super Bowl campaign and the results have been amazing.

For nearly a decade, Doritos has had a spot-on Super Bowl marketing strategy that boosts engagement in a huge way. Beyond its prominent commercials, this time the PepsiCo snack brand leveraged influencers and TikTok, one of the newer social media platforms for much success.

Lil Nas X and Sam Elliot riding into Doritos’ 2020 Super Bowl Ad

For its 2020 Super Bowl marketing campaign, Doritos aired an advertisement featuring Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” song. The saloon-style spot showed the two-time Grammy winner and Oscar-nominated western actor, Sam Elliott, in a comedic dance battle over Cool Ranch tortilla chips, which the brand says is now “revamped” with “even more Cool Ranch flavor.” The duo shows some gun-free killer moves, including Elliot’s impressive mustache wave, but the rapper eventually gets to ride off into the sunset with a coveted bag of chips.

The 60-second ad became viral and has over 16 million views on Doritos’ official YouTube page. According to video analytics startup Unruly, which measures emotional intelligence scores, the spot was the fourth most effective commercial during the Super Bowl, behind only Google, Cheetos and New York Life Insurance Company. Furthermore, Google analytics reveal “Old Town Road” was the most searched song lyric on February 2 — the games day. Twitter data analyzed by Salesforce also show the ad was the 10th most discussed, generating 11,000 mentions and 90% positive sentiment.

#CoolRanchDance challenge spurs user-generated content

While the commercial did well on its own account, Doritos’ success was fuelled by an extension, inviting viewers to show they’ve got “the moves to make it to The Cool Ranch”. The ad ends with the hashtag #CoolRanchDance — a hint for viewers to discover more on social media and participate in a dedicated TikTok challenge.

So far almost 3,000 users have created dance videos using the challenge’s official sound clip on TikTok. Most of the user-generated #CoolRanchDance videos feature a western transformation transition, dance moves, and a bag of chips. The hashtag has amassed a total of 5.1 billion views.

Doritos did not only bet on users to create content. It collaborated with nine influencers who made sponsored posts. Six of them were labeled as verifed influencers for the campaign, as shown by the “official” overlay placed across their videos.

Among the web celebrities participating in the challenge was Montana Tucker, who showed her 2.2 million TikTok followers her “Old Town Road” moves, gathering over 187,000 likes and 1,320 comments. Josh Killacky also made a sponsored post, liked by 28,700 users and commented by 257. James Henry was another TikTok influencer to record his #CoolRanchDance and encourage his 2.7 million fans on the platform to follow suit. “Bring the flavor to the party with #Doritos! Duet this and show everyone your #CoolRanchDance,” he said in a caption accompanying his video.

Reaching Gen Z

Doritos made a smart move by choosing TikTok as the campaign’s main platform. The short-form video app has been downloaded more than 1.65 billion times worldwide. According to a Morning Consult survey, in the US, young teens (13-16 years old) are as likely to use TikTok as they are Facebook and Twitter. The form of the marketing effort was also very promising. Challenges are an integral part of TikTok, garnering the attention of generation Z and turning users into brand content creators.

On TikTok, mobile users record themselves attempting to perform a challenge, and post the content with a denoted hashtag. Often they seek out other users to challenge or ‘duet’ with. Users are even more likely to join the hype when a popular influencer they follow takes part in the branded challenge. If a TikTok Hashtag Challenge gains momentum on the app or ends up on the For You page, the challenge can garner millions of views across all social media platforms.

Another smart move by Doritos was its partnership with TikTok darling Lil Nas X. Last year, the rapper uploaded the “Old Town Road” sound clip to the platform himself and credits the app with its success. The song turned into a hugely popular meme where people drank “yee yee juice,” transforming them into a cowboy. The buzz created by the viral TikTok hashtag challenge propelled “Old Town Road” to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song kept its leading position for 17 weeks and the Lil Nas X made history as a TikTok-born star. In fact, the aspiring artist had experience with going viral and creating memes, becoming a tweetdecker on Twitter as a teen.

In a nutshell, Doritos’ choice of influencers and artists to partner with, as well as their marketing strategy and choice of platform helped the brand’s 2020 Super Bowl campaign reach and engage a younger demographic of typically heavy consumers of snack food.

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Written by Deyana


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