Frito-Lay is all smiles about its newest packaging promotion. With the launch of its “Smiles” campaign in late July, the Lay’s chip brand is unveiling packaging with 31 inspiring stories across a variety of flavors and bag sizes, featuring the faces of “Everyday Smilers” who are making an impact in their local communities and beyond. The program benefits international medical charity, Operation Smile, with a donation of up to $1 million.

Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsico, is the No. 1 global snack brand and a savvy user of promotional packaging. Frito-Lay makes, markets, distributes, and sells snack foods, including branded dips, Cheetos cheese-flavored snacks, Doritos tortilla chips, Fritos corn chips, Lay’s potato chips, Ruffles potato chips, and Tostitos tortilla chips. It is the fastest-growing division within the company.

Promotional packaging is a 100-percent guaranteed method for Lay’s to have impact and communication within stores, says Courtney Larson, director of brand marketing. “As a culture driver at Frito-Lay, we are always trying to delight consumers in new, exciting and innovative ways.”

Flexible Packaging Plays Key Role

Larson adds that considering how flexible packaging fits into consumers’ lives, it is incredibly important to Frito-Lay because it is efficient and effective. “Flexible packaging optimizes all the different goals we have for our packaging,” she says, including branding, product protection, shelf appeal and sustainability.

In 2018, Lay’s debuted similar “Smiles” packaging in conjunction with Operation Smile, an international program that provides corrective surgery for individuals with cleft lips or cleft palates. That initiative surpassed expectations with customer feedback and social engagement to prompt the campaign’s return in 2019 — this year with the addition of real people on the bags.

The 2019 program features the photos and stories of 31 individuals in 60 different versions of the packaging. Over the course of the promotion, Frito-Lay expects to distribute more than 100 million chip bags. Beyond the core flavors, the smilers program also includes limited-time offerings being distributed nationally on incremental points of display on the perimeter of the stores.

“Smiles spread joy and we, as a brand, are on a mission. This is how can give back in a meaningful way as a brand,” Larson says. “Our largest impression driver is packaging, and we wanted to make sure we had people on the packaging that represent our Lay’s ethos and brand narrative.” 

“The simple act of everyday smilers sharing their stories can have a big impact on our work to help children around the world,” said Kristie Magee Porcaro, senior vice president of global philanthropy for Operation Smile. “We are grateful that Lay’s has launched its ‘Smiles’ campaign for a second year, recognizing the power that a single storyteller has to inspire others and help change the world.”

Bags Distributed Nationally

All of Lay’s chip flavors featuring the smilers will be distributed nationally. “From marketing perspective one of the things we liked about this is that we really want our program and the stories behind the individuals on the packs to be an inspiration for others to spread joy and create a difference in other peoples’ lives,” Larson says. ”It was important for us to showcase a variety of stories for inspiration across America and not just limit it to a few in each market.”

Fans can learn more about the 31 smilers featured on the Lay’s Smiles bags through a mobile video campaign with NowThis, produced in partnership with Group Nine’s Brandshop and Facebook. Consumers can also learn more about the Everyday Smilers through an augmented reality experience powered by the Facebook Camera and triggered by scanning a unique QR code on the back of each Smiles bag.

The inspiring Everyday Smilers’ stories include vignettes of each of the 31 volunteers. They include people such as:

  • Dr. Shelly B., Phoenix, AZ: Dr. Shelly is a pediatrician who believes everyone deserves to smile. That’s why she volunteers her specialized skills to Operation Smile by helping thankful children all over the world get the medical care they need.
  • Chadleen L., Corona, CA: Chadleen was born with a cleft palate and she received a surgery from Operation Smile at the age of four. Now, Chadleen’s singing brings smiles to the faces of many.
  • Dr. Chris E., Chesterfield, MO: Dr. Chris is a fun-loving anesthesiologist whose work with Operation Smile has created more than 600 beautiful new smiles around the world.

Larson says implementation of the program took a full year of planning from the moment of concept and inspiration to the launch. Scouting of the smilers and their stories took the most time on the project. She adds that the brand wanted to make sure it had most inspirational stories from across America. The 31 smilers were brought together in February for a photo shoot at a production studio in Dallas, Tex. It took five consecutive days to capture the photos and the video footage needed.

Larson explains that Lay’s did not change the structure of its packaging; the only changes were in the graphics. “Design and graphic teams worked closely together to make sure that the systems capabilities were able to capture the whole potential of the different technologies that we use,” she says. “Ultimately, everyone was really pleased with how the colors turned out. The pop of colors across the different designs and the color consistency across multiple press runs was excellent.”

Bringing together 31 smilers, many different SKUs in different sizes and different flavors made the coordination and upfront planning very important to the process before the packaging was ultimately printed.

All the bags are printed using flexographic presses. The team had a very robust quality control process and did test runs to ensure everything would come out correctly. The printing was distributed among multiple facilities across the country, requiring great collaboration between internal and external partners.

Larson says Frito-Lay did plan for the augmented reality (AR) experience from the beginning. Augmented reality wasn’t a very complicated process, she says, but they had to have all content planned and details locked before printing began.

AR Tells Each Smiler’s Story

Each smiler has a different AR experience. Lay’s developed unique QR codes that look like a smiley face for each of the 31 smilers. “All we had to have done at the completion of the packaging was the QR code itself and a draft landing page with smiler’s name and other details before printing.” Larson says “When we activated the QR codes before launch, that was when we needed to have all the content and stories for the augmented reality experience.”

Frito-Lay has used augmented reality before but this is the first time this brand has leveraged augmented reality through its packaging. “As we look at our whole list of engagement programs, AR really plays a role in rounding out our consumer engagement within the program,” Larson says. “If you look at it in isolation, it doesn’t drive massive engagement. But with the packaging design, social media and the rest of our holistic, 360˚ marketing elements, AR does help us achieve incremental engagement.”

“What we really loved for the Smilers program is that it really helped us tell more of the story that we didn’t have space to do on the packaging,” she adds. The company will be able to track consumer engagement, but AR is not a good indicator of sales because consumers could buy the bag and not unlock the QR code.

“If they’re seeing the AR story, we hope they will buy Lay’s chips at some point,” Larson says.