Ad Age expanded its “Creativity Top 5” series to include new roundups of our favorite special-interest campaigns and ideas from brands. This week we look at some new ideas, and creative solutions, from food and beverage brands. Visit adage.com each Thursday for a new ranking of campaigns from the past month.
The top 5 food and beverage marketing ideas you need to know about now
5. Pretzel beer
Tired of the annual pumpkin spice marketing blitz? Here is a refreshing new seasonal product—a beer that tastes like soft pretzels. Auntie Anne’s teamed up with Philadelphia-based Evil Genius Beer Company to create a special Oktoberfest-style lager called Is Butter a Carb? that is brewed with German hops and malts and fresh-baked Auntie Anne's soft pretzels. Trevor Hayward, co-founder of Evil Genius, in a statement made this (obvious) plug: "The only thing better than pretzels AND beer, is pretzels IN beer."
4. A new marketing twist for Ruffles
Ruffles is using WNBA star A’ja Wilson to market a new product line called Ruffles Ridge Twists. The Las Vegas Aces forward is the first female athlete to back the brand, which is putting her images on bags of the Smoky BBQ flavor of the new twists, which Ruffles describes as potato spirals with a “light, airy twist.” She joins a Ruffles roster that includes NBA stars LeBron James and Jayson Tatum. Wilson’s involvement comes as female athletes continue to make endorsement gains.
The effort comes as the WNBA enjoys a ratings uptick.
Plenty of brands of late have jumped in the time machine for nostalgia-fueled marketing. The trick is to do it in a creative way that also plays into the brand’s DNA. Pabst Blue Ribbon clears those bars easily with its new 1980s-themed hotel that retrofits the Grand Traverse Motel in Traverse City, Michigan, with three rooms that replicate a dive bar, arcade and rec room. It is part of a larger campaign that rekindles the beer brand’s old “Pabst is the Place” tagline. Fans can book a two-night stay in one of the three rooms until Labor Day.
2. Fiji goes to Hollywood
Fiji Water is known for notching marketing wins by showing up in unexpected places. But the brand might have outdone itself with its newest product placement. As documented recently by The Wall Street Journal, Fiji has a prominent role in the new action flick, “Bullet Train,” starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock. The bottled water is used as a makeshift weapon in the movie, which includes a backstory on how the bottle ended up on the train in the first place.
It all amounts to significant, albeit a bit risky, publicity for the brand, considering the link to weaponry. Fiji Senior Marketing VP Clarence Chia told the Journal that “we normally would avoid any scenes with violence, but in ‘Bullet Train,’ Fiji Water, as you know, saves the day.”
Not everyone is amused, though. In an unflattering review of the film, Tilt magazine called the water bottle plotline “little more than a shameless advert for Fiji water.”
A Fiji representative told Ad Age the deal was brokered after Sony, the studio behind the film, reached out to the brand. Fiji did not disclose financial terms. “It was important to Fiji that the brand respect the storyline takes place in Japan, even though it was being filmed in Los Angeles. With that, the U.S. labels were switched out for the Fiji Water Japanese labels and placed on the bottles prior to handing over to the production team,” the representative told Ad Age in an email.
1. Fear the Reaper (tortilla chip)
The best TikTok trends happen organically. And when brands try to manufacture them, they often fail. But Paqui Tortilla Chips’ #OneChipChallenge is, well, pretty hot. The brand, owned by Hershey Co.-controlled Amplify Snack Brands, on Aug. 9 announced the return of the challenge, in its sixth year, which this year features chips made from Carolina Reaper Pepper and Scorpion Pepper. The hotter-than-hell chip, dubbed the Reaper, will turn your tongue blue if you eat one. For the challenge, consumers are asked to prove they’ve eaten one by sharing a picture of their blue tongue on social media.
"Each year, the team here at Paqui raises the bar and develops an intensely thrilling challenge that pushes the fearless to their limit," Paqui Senior Brand Manager Brandon Kieffer said in a statement. "Fans be warned, this year's chip isn't for the faint of heart and there's no cheating the test. Only the bravest will be able to prove they faced the Reaper when they show off their blue tongue after completing the challenge."
The hashtag #OneChipChallenge has earned 585 million views in TikTok, including videos from previous years.
Not all publicity has been good, however. Last year’s challenge asked eaters to wait as long as possible before eating or drinking anything after eating the chip. In California, three high schoolers were hospitalized after participating, according to the Sacramento Bee, prompting the company to issue a statement, saying the product “should be handled with extreme care,” and is not for anyone “sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, nightshades, or capsaicin, or who are minors, pregnant or have medical conditions.”