In March 2022, in the heart of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, a palpable air of anticipation enveloped the scene as attendees willingly queued up for a staggering two hours, the line snaking around a full-size block. The attraction? The mysterious and delicious Cheetos Hands-Free House, an experiential and digital activation led by the Amazon Ads Brand Innovation Lab, that allowed guests to witness the magic of Cheetos while keeping their fingers covered in the dusty orange “Cheetle” from leaving smudges all over the place.
In today’s consumer landscape, the traditional path to purchase has evolved into a multifaceted, nonlinear journey. The route from awareness to conversion is now complex and fluid. In an era where consumers have the freedom to shop anytime and anywhere, engaging with them requires a nuanced understanding of their preferences and behaviors. This paradigm shift demands a delicate approach to engagement, where brands must be agile and meet customers wherever and whenever they choose to shop.
The many collaborations between Cheetos and Amazon Ads demonstrate a best-in-class example of how brands can create engaging touchpoints with customers. Let’s dive into a few of these collaborations, starting with the Hands-Free House at SXSW.
Bridging the Digital and Physical Realms: Experiential Advertising in All Formats
PepsiCo and Amazon Ads brought the tech-enabled Cheetos Hands-Free House to life. Guests enjoyed various activities without worrying about Cheetle-dusted fingers by commanding Alexa for a movie night, magically creating Cheetos mozzarella sticks in the kitchen, playing music with voice controls, and joining a Cheetos-themed backyard party. Exceeding attendance goals by 18%, the event generated 1.1 billion earned media impressions, creating a buzz on social media and in press coverage. For those unable to attend in person, Amazon Ads provided a virtual experience on the Amazon store landing page, offering a 360-degree view of the Hands-Free House for online exploration.
Reaching Relevant Consumers: Turning Insights Into Action
Taking it back to the beginning, the journey began with a new launch from Cheetos. Cheetos Mac ’n Cheese combines two classic American staples: Cheetos snacks and the comfort dish macaroni and cheese. The brand knew how important it would be to tell their story across the entire consumer funnel while also expanding their audience of loyal Cheetos-loving customers to reach new-to-brand millennials.
Amazon Ads found that Cheetos shoppers visiting the Amazon store are more likely to be younger adults and unmarried, in comparison to shoppers of similar brands. This dovetailed nicely with the broader consumer trend of the snackification of food culture, with millennial consumers opting for snack items versus full meals.
Based on these insights, Amazon Ads recommended that Cheetos strategically communicate the versatility of the new product as a meal that Cheetos consumers could snack on, through Amazon DSP video and static formats, along with amplification on social media to create a cohesive and resonant brand narrative.
The results from the Cheetos Mac ’n Cheese campaign showed uplift across the funnel for their key performance indicators, particularly for ad awareness, with an 8.7% increase according to a Kantar Brand Lift Insights Report, suggesting that the Cheetos Mac ’n Cheese branding resonated well with the millennial Cheetos audience that Amazon Ads sought to help Cheetos reach.
Navigating Seasonal Brand Building: Harnessing Key Moments for Lasting Connections
Building on the success of their full-funnel activation, Cheetos recognized an opportunity to fortify brand affinity around a pivotal seasonal event: Halloween.
In 2022, about 33% of consumers in the U.S. said they planned to start shopping for Halloween about three to four weeks in advance, and 20% of consumers said they would start as early as a month or more in advance. In the pursuit of establishing itself as the savory snack of choice during Halloween, Cheetos strategically aligned its brand goals with the cultural zeitgeist to deepen their connection with consumers across Amazon channels to drive mass reach. Amazon Prime had the breadth of content to make finding a good brand fit easy.
For the release of the Amazon Original Series I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cheetos joined forces with Prime Video and Amazon Ads in a full-funnel campaign. In the collaboration, Prime Video and Cheetos crafted a custom horror/thriller-style digital ad mirroring the series. The video unfolds with a young woman discovering the iconic phrase I know what you did last summer written in orange dust on her mirror. A nod to a memorable moment from the 1997 film and the Prime Video series, the ad cleverly revealed a cheetah-themed twist as her friends, enjoying Cheetos, become part of the enigmatic narrative.
Kicking off with a suspenseful video, this campaign unfolded in the lead-up to the mid-October release of I Know What You Did Last Summer, extending its eerie charm through Halloween. Prime Video contributed exclusive content, aiding Cheetos in crafting digital, video, and creative social assets. In a collaborative effort, Amazon Ads and Cheetos devised a full-funnel marketing strategy for the Halloween campaign, utilizing Fire TV placements, video ads, Sponsored Brands, Stores, and display ads via Amazon DSP. Prime Video further engaged Cheetos’ social teams, orchestrating live watch parties and dynamic activations on Twitter and Instagram to connect with fans.
Delivering Innovative Campaigns: From Consumer Needs to Tangible Products
Digital content seamlessly translated into tangible realities as Cheetos and Amazon extended their unified experience, captivating audiences online and bringing a social media trend to life through pioneering products.
Recognizing that customers were already posting on social media about incorporating “Cheetle” into their culinary explorations, Amazon and Cheetos aimed to make this practice more accessible. This culinary trend served as the inspiration for the Cheetos Duster, a kitchen appliance that grinds Cheetos to be added into other recipes. It was developed in collaboration with Amazon Ads Brand Innovation Lab, designed exclusively for the Amazon store.
To bring this innovative product to life, Amazon Ads delivered resources to build video assets, showcasing the versatility of the Cheetos Duster and inspiring culinary creativity. The product-focused activation wasn’t merely about accessibility but served a dual purpose: driving brand awareness, and providing consumers with a tangible way to sample the Cheetos experience in their own kitchens.
Deploying across Fire TV, Video and Brand Stores, the campaign showcased the Cheetos Duster in action, engaging consumers across diverse digital touchpoints. Amazon’s creative services, including manufacturer (Harper + Scott) and Amazon Ads design services, played a pivotal role in bringing the product to market with compelling visuals and messaging.
The impact was immediate and resounding: The Dusters sold out within a mere two hours of launch. This success not only underscored the fervor of Cheetos enthusiasts but also highlighted the effectiveness of the collaborative efforts between Cheetos and Amazon Ads in delivering innovative products that resonate with audiences. The campaign’s comprehensive approach, from video assets to deployment across Amazon’s many touchpoints, exemplifies how this collaboration continually surprises and delights consumers while pushing the boundaries of brand-building initiatives.
Cheetos and Amazon Ads seamlessly integrated their strengths, leveraging the extensive consumer touchpoints across Amazon channels and the inventive storytelling of Cheetos. Marked by the reach and creativity of Amazon Ads, the collaborations exemplify the art of meeting consumers precisely where they are—whether in the virtual or physical realms. Beyond the individual campaigns, these collaborations underscore the impact of a longer-term, strategic relationship. It serves as a pragmatic illustration of the impactful outcomes achieved when brands join forces with a shared dedication to innovation and a nuanced understanding of their audiences. In a world of dynamic consumer journeys, these collaborations stand as a testament to the effectiveness of long-term joint planning in delivering compelling and memorable brand experiences.
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