News & Views

Cheetos / Cheetos Museum

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world

Cheesy snack brand offers $150,000 to customers who use their imagination to see its product in a new light

For years people have looked at randomly-shaped Cheetos and seen landmarks, famous faces, or mythical creatures. There are Facebook pages devoted to oddly-shaped Cheetos and freakishly large specimens have even ended up on auction websites.

Exploiting this habit, Frito-Lay has created an online museum of Cheetos that resemble other things, and is giving away $150,000 in prize money to people who have submitted the best examples.

Beginning 31 May, Cheetos invited customers to submit a photo of an oddly-shaped example of the cheese-flavoured snack along with a description of what they saw, for instance, the Loch Ness Monster or Abraham Lincoln.

The uniquely-shaped Cheetos are displayed on the Cheetos Museum website and each week for 10 weeks the brand awarded $10,000 to the cheese-art deemed the most visually interesting and buzz-worthy. An ultimate winner will be picked by the voting public from among the 10 weekly winners and will receive an extra $50,000.

Cheetos is also creating a real-life version of the online exhibit and hiding 10 game pieces shaped like cheese art from the Cheetos Museum in packets of the snack. Each game piece represents a different location and Cheetos fans who find them can redeem the game pieces for family vacations to the city, worth $10,000.


Contagious Insight / 

Aesthetically cheesing / Thanks to their random, knobbly shape, Cheetos can trigger pareidolia in people. This is where the mind perceives a pattern or a familiar shape where none exists. It’s the same phenomenon at play when people see the face of Jesus in their toast.

Frito-Lay has incorporated this manufacturing quirk into a fun competition that encourages people to seek out and think about Cheetos differently. Ogilvy & Mather Group Vice Chairman, Rory Sutherland cites Kraft’s Diamond Shreddies campaign (which literally turned the cereal brand on its head) as another example of this achieved through perception, without the need to change the product.

From food to fun / As Rob Zmitrewicz, Frito-Lay North America Marketing Manager of Cheetos, suggests, the campaign turns Cheetos from simply a food into a game families can play this summer. ‘The best part is that this is something families can do together anywhere – at home, on the road and even on vacation,’ he said. The activity is entertaining in its own right - evidenced by the number of people already sharing their strange-shaped Cheetos online - but the generous prize money ensured a healthy level of interest (15,000 entrants as of mid-June). The competition will encourage more people to search for familiar shapes in Cheetos, meaning there’s a good chance the practice will live on beyond the competition through social media, creating an intangible added value.



This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world. I/O helps anyone in the world of marketing understand why brands are innovating, how they're doing it and with what success.

Learn more about Contagious I/O