Building Brand Reputation Through Business Partnerships
Lay’s Potato chips wants to put an even bigger smile on your face. A packaging campaign in early 2018 included the smiling faces of real customers and the logo of nonprofit organization, Operation Smile. Lay’s co-branded packaging with Operation Smile fulfilled two goals – connecting with consumers, especially millennials, and completing a charitable giving campaign. With every bag purchased during the promotion, Lay’s donated up to $1 million to Operation Smile. Partnerships like this one are great for community building and brand reputation, but can also help with product sales.
Smiles for Sales
It’s not shocking that millennials are a target audience for Lay’s. Capturing this elusive demographic is a common goal for many businesses as the purchasing power of the generation grows. One trend among millennials? Products that support a deeper cause than simple sales. They like to know that the products they buy do more than put money back into the pocket of a company. If their purchasing power can be used to do good for communities or nonprofit organizations, they are usually happy to choose one brand over another.
Personalized packaging, like using real consumer smiles, helps customers feel a deeper connection to both the product and the brand. Every good brand knows that connecting with their audience is a sure-fire way to retain and grow their business. While a consumer-focused packaging change might seem like enough to accomplish this, Lay’s went a step further. To reach their audience in-person, Lay’s held a pop-up event in New York City to showcase the campaign for everyone to see.
According to Lori Thelen, Senior Vice President of Accounts Services at The Marketing Arm (the agency that helped Lay’s put on the event), “We wanted to do something really big…in a place that’s going to get a lot of attention — Times Square — and invite people in to have an experience beyond the one in stores.”
The pop-up was spread across several rooms that all had a unique theme. Pop-up events like this draw pretty much anyone who happens to be strolling by, giving Lay’s a large in-person audience to showcase how their efforts help communities. Millennials in general are drawn to diverse, interactive, experiential marketing, and a three-day event in Times Square checks off all those boxes.
The campaign’s packaging design was not just intended to entice millennials. They capitalized on a psychological twist as well: When you see a person smile, you want to smile. It is a natural reaction, similar to the overwhelming need to yawn after you see someone else do it.
Shawn Achor, New York Times Best Selling Author of, The Happiness Project says, “When you smile, it spreads to those around you, and then comes full circle back to you. One simple smile shows how connected we are to each other.” Smiling creates a long-lasting chain effect. When you smile more, you spread your smile to others, and so on and so forth. Cheesy? Absolutely. But a great marketing strategy? Just ask everyone smiling in the snack aisle.
Lay’s did a survey to corroborate this idea. The survey found that 9 out of 10 people said seeing others smile, made them happy, or want to smile.
So when you see packaging with a feel good vibe, you want to either, 1) buy it or 2) share it with others. Either of these options are beneficial to the product. So yes, Lay’s gets more sales, but you also get more smiles. Again, cheesy, but it is not a bad thing for either party. But, while new packaging alone can stand out on shelves and boost sales, Lay’s wanted to do more than that. They wanted to give back to their community, and support their nonprofit of choice, Operation Smile.
Why Partner with a Nonprofit?
Operation Smile is a nonprofit organization that supports children born with a cleft, a gap in the mouth that did not form correctly during pregnancy. It is estimated that, worldwide, a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft. Having a cleft lip or cleft palate can be more than just a physical defect. A child born with this condition may not be able to eat correctly, may suffer from severe ear infections or be unable to form certain words. They may also have issues with normal dental development, which, of course, affects their smile.
Partnering with Lay’s, Operation Smile received a donation of $1 million, and that will go a long way. It takes as little as $240 and 45 minutes to provide a child in need with the care they deserve. Operation Smile also allows you to donate on your own on their website and they match every donation. As wonderful as this is for Operation Smile it begs the question, just how are the companies that partner with nonprofits making money?
Partnering with a nonprofit is actually a very positive and sustainable way for companies to establish their brand, and in turn, earn money. When you connect your business with a trusted nonprofit, your company becomes more trusted in turn. People do not like to be sold to. Linking with a nonprofit can gain customers’ loyalty without the need for in-your-face advertising, and sometimes, without them ever even trying your product.
Partnering with a nonprofit also forms a link between you and the community (Hey, Millennials!). Instead of being a far-off entity that customers only connect with selling, you suddenly become less of a business and more of a friend. I, a millennial, would rather have products in my home that I connect to emotionally instead of bottom-shelf products that rely on gimmicks for sales.
Having a partner also doubles your campaign coverage. It’s not only companies that gain exposure from these partnerships. The nonprofit also benefits greatly, even beyond the company’s donation at the end of a campaign. Your company name alone can bring widespread attention outside of their normal audience, so it’s more than likely they will be advertising your partnership as well. Think of it as “free marketing.” Not as free as well… free, but the more people that are exposed to your campaign the better, right?
Partnering with a large, popular brand can elevate even a well-known nonprofit to new heights. As large as Operation Smile already is, they will still see a spike in followers because of their partnership with Lay’s. The increased visibility is possibly the reason they added a donation button to their site. They know people will see their connection with Lay’s and might look them up. This way, they capitalize on their increased visibility to draw people in who may want to donate directly instead of, or in addition to, buying a bag of chips.
Partnerships also allow nonprofits to grow internally. With more media attention, comes more jobs and more responsibilities. It allows the organization to expand and teach their employees different skills. Many times, a partnership goes far beyond the original goal to become a mutually treasured and long-standing relationship.
The History of Lay’s Supporting Communities
This is not the first time Lay’s has thought about their community. Since 2006, Lay’s has been dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint and helping to create a healthier relationship between people and food through the support of various organizations.
In a global context, Lay’s is committed to protecting the environment through finding sustainable ways to produce more food. In a community-based context, Lay’s is no stranger to partnering with organizations like Operation Smile. They work with groups like Feed the Children, the American Heart Association, The United Way, and others.
In doing this, they are contributing overall to their parent company PepsiCo’s goal of providing good food to under-served communities and consumers. They also support the advancement of women and girls and the economic development of the communities in which they operate. They are so much more than a company that makes sales, they believe that being a part of their community is just as important.
As part of their partnership with The United Way, the women and men who work at Lay’s and PepsiCo participate in an annual “Day of Caring.” For more than six years, 1,200 Dallas associates have taken time out of their day to help with volunteer projects at more than 22 United Way agencies, contributing about 5,000 volunteer hours in one day.
Whether it is partnering with Operation Smile, or continuing their personal efforts in the communities that surround them, Lay’s is on the right track to hold their place in the forefront of consumers’ minds. This is just one example of how a little humanity paired with and a cool marketing campaign can draw people, and companies, together for the better.