>From to Bland and Brand

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The Memo Hispanics don't munch on potato chips as often as average consumers. In fact, they are 52 percent less likely to eat "salty snacks" than the general market. How could Frito-Lay appeal to this growing segment of the population?

The Discovery Initial focus groups by the Market Segment Group found that Hispanic teens and young adults thought Frito-Lay products tasted too mild. And they weren't impressed with low-fat or unflavored tortilla chips; they wanted bolder, spicier flavors. Latino consumers also said they were unaware of most Frito-Lay advertising, and often bought individual bags of snacks, rather than family-size products.

Next, Burke Marketing Research and Market Segment conducted door-to-door interviews. They found that Hispanics tended to buy snacks at small local grocery stores, not the 21-aisle supermarkets down the road. The study also indicated that, if presented with the right products, these consumers might buy more Frito-Lay snacks, perhaps in larger sizes.

Meanwhile, teams from Strategy Research Corporation were cruising Hispanic neighborhoods in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Miami, in traveling test kitchens: giant RVs. Their mission: get Hispanic women to sample 43 salty snacks and assess the ones they liked. Why women? Because they buy most of the groceries. Why the RVs? Because Hispanics are less likely to shop at malls, where taste tests are commonly performed. The research led to the development of four products: Doritos Salsa Verde, Lay's Adobaditas, Frito's Flamin' Hot Sabrositos, and Frito's Lime 'n Chile Sabrositos.

A second round of focus groups gathered Hispanic male teens and young adults, a demographic group that consumes a lot of chips. They liked one tagline in particular: "Sabor a Todo Volumen" (the loudest taste). At first, Frito-Lay execs questioned the use of Spanish, but researchers were confident. While kids spoke English at school, manyturned to Spanish at home. And previous focus groups had shown that most Latinos weren't aware of the company's English-language ads. If the company truly wanted to tap the Hispanic market, it had to talk the talk.

The Tactics Doritos Salsa Verde became the focus of the Hispanic advertising strategy-the Doritos brand sold well among teens so it made sense to capitalize on that popularity and target Hispanic male teens and young adults who speak Spanish. They were bicultural and embraced certain aspects of life in America but still felt close to their roots. Dieste & Partners developed several ads and showed them to kids in focus groups. One spot featured a hip, young woman singing Spanish rock music, a growing moviemento in Hispanic youth culture. The kids loved it.

Another key element in the campaign was the "Happy Face" logo, an icon of Frito-Lay's sister company in Mexico. In focus groups, Mexican Americans said the logo reminded them of snack foods from home. Given that Mexican Americans comprise 63 percent of all Hispanics in the United States, Frito-Lay knew it had to act on this finding. The "Happy Face" appears in all packaging and advertising.

The Payoff In 1997, Frito-Lay launched its Hispanic products in San Antonio. IRI tracked sales in stores that served a majority of Hispanic shoppers. Sales of the Doritos brand jumped 32 percent after the rollout; the Salsa Verde flavor represented 15 percent of all sales. Last year, Frito-Lay expanded the line into other locations in the United States with large Hispanic populations. Sales topped $100 million and Doritos Salsa Verde accounted for nearly 50 percent.

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