Another post that came to me via Geoffrey Long, a C3 alum who works for the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT. This is a direct to the blog of Cabel Maxfield Sasser, co-founder of Panic, who writes about a variety of new packaged food products that have come out recently.
There are a lot of interesting branding issues contained in his post, and both some particularly tasty and quite scary products along the way, but what Geoff recommended I pass along to C3 readers in particular was the third product featured in his post, a brand called (for now) Doritos X-13D.
Here's the deal: Doritos has what Cabel calls a "beta" flavor of chips. The bag comes with the Doritos name followed by a nondescript "X-13D" and a message to consumers, stating, "This is the X-13D Flavor Experiment. Objective: Taste and name Doritos flavor X-13D."
The only hint offered on the bag is that the chips have "an All-American classic" flavor, Which Cabel identifies as Big Mac. He also relates the story of a vegetarian who bought the bag and later became upset after eating them and realizing that they had beef-based ingredients included.
The site includes a variety of games that help generate clues to get to the bottom of the flavor of the unnamed chips brand, as well as a chance to create dialogue for potential X-13D commercials.
Ronald Coyle writes that Doritos has shown quite adept at using "social media," but the promotion has its detractors as well. Take, for instance, the guys at The Drudge Siren whose main objection to the promotion is that the chips taste awful. Their names include "Eating a Funeral" and "Licking a Chinese Restaurant's Bathroom Floor."
Of course, Doritos had to expect plenty of this type of response, which is what happens when you open a product up to comments from the consumer in such an explicit manner. Even with these quite degrading titles for the product, though, I still think it's a boon to companies to allow people to comment so explicitly on their foods, as it makes them seem more confident in their brand to let its consumers participate in this type of project, even if the consumer doesn't spread positive word-of-mouth.
A word to the wise, though: it helps to have a good product if you are going to rely on others to spread it. I've not tried the mysterious Doritos brand, but of course a mystery flavor will end up with both its fans and its haters. At the very least, the promotion seems to have generated a fair amount of attention and buzz from consumers.