PepsiCo makes two-pronged persuasion pitch to drum up interest in Lay's

Fun, taste and indulgence, for years these are the brand attributes that PepsiCo India has projected onto its brand of chips. However, with consumption habits and concerns in a swirl, these are no longer seen to be sufficiently compelling characteristics, especially for bringing new, millennial consumers into the Lay’s fold. So the cola major has turned to the ever-widening sprawl of digital media to expand the scope of the brand, relying on influencers to amplify a narrative presented by its two endorsers, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. 

The two actors are meant to pique consumer interest in the brand and presentit as a source of shared joy. A band of influencers makes up the trail,  deepening the reach of the message while lengthening its impact. Importantly, influencers are also expected to build greater trust in the brand. 

PepsiCo is following what has increasingly become the norm, using endorsers to kickstart a campaign that is taken forward by influencers on social media. However, experts warn that with so many voices speaking for the brand, it can be  a challenge keeping a consistent narrative. 

“We believe that for any marketing campaign to be successful, it is imperative to focus on ‘the idea’ as the first and foremost premise. An idea should be seen as the starting point of ‘breaking new ground’, while strategising and narrowing down on tools and techniques should be seen as step two,” said Dilen Gandhi, senior director and category head-Foods, PepsiCo India. 

The ‘brand idea’ has had to be tweaked for all food brands in recent years, as consumers have sought healthier options and opted for local flavours over standardised global tastes. Gandhi said that the company is offering healthier options and has committed to reduce the sodium content across all products by 2025. Two of its bestselling flavours, the Magic Masala and Spanish Tomato Tango have been re-launched with reduced sodium content. And Lay’s has come up with several region-specific variants to meet the demand for local flavours. 

“Our aim right now is to focus on the core of the brand,” said Gandhi. He points out that Lay’s has always had its ear close to the consumer,  the present campaign hooks in to the growing desire for personalisation and addresses the increasing lack of trust among millennial consumers towards snack foods and big brands. 


As a consumer facing business, PepsiCo said it looked into where its audience spends most of their time and thus, digital amplification was an integral part of the #SmileDekeDekho campaign (Gift a smile). The company has shared hampers with more than 750 influencers and encouraged these influencers and consumers alike to join the campaign. It has also customised the packs for more than 350 influencers, mapped their smile and matched it to their favourite flavour variants. The select set includes cricketers, actors and personalities with a significantly large number of followers.

The campaign has clocked 185 million impressions and 7.2 million engagements on social media till November 22. “We think of our influencer strategy as complementary to our brand ambassador strategy. Our brand ambassadors, apart from being amongst the best actors of their generation are also youth icons. Their mass-appeal and thespian skills make them great carriers of the brand’s ideas. Influencers act as micro-amplifiers that can drive engagement to the idea. It’s the equivalent of your friend relaying a message they’ve heard on mass-media . Your friend will add his flavour while retaining the essence. This makes the message more relatable and sticky, but the original idea is still core,” said Gandhi.

What makes PepsiCo and others so keen to get the brand message right is the potential of the Indian snack market. According to Natasha Kumat, India Food and Drink Analyst with market research firm Mintel, the Indian snack food retail market, second only to China, grew around 14.6 per cent in volumes in 2019 over 2018 and 17.3 per cent in value terms over the same period. According to Mintel data, the top five salty snacks consumed by Indian consumers are: potato chips, mixture, dal-based snacks, popcorn and vegetable chips. Hence the emphasis on wafers by nearly every snacks major—be it local labels such as Balaji or global ones such as PepsiCo Lay’s.

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