Doritos Has A Bold Mission–And Lady Gaga–For SXSW Attendees

The brand heads to Austin with a new campaign launch, a 62-foot vending machine stage–and Lady Gaga.

For a brand like Doritos, going to SXSW means making a big scene for the flocks of creative and tech disciples who are there to see and be seen. And the bigger the better considering the many, many brands that orchestrate ever more elaborate activities at the event. That’s why three years ago the brand decided to not only put on a concert series but make its stage a four-story vending machine.


And just as hopeful startups use the festival to launch apps, SXSW is also a place to launch campaigns. “For us, it starts with the consumer who lives at the intersection of technology and music,” says Frito-Lay vice president of marketing Ram Krishnan. “It makes so much sense for us to be there and, frankly, there is culture that gets created there and we want to be part of it.”

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Last year, the behemoth vending machine stage was interactive, allowing people to control things like the lights and smoke machines and even pick performer LL Cool J’s encore song through Twitter. Now, Krishnan says expectations are higher and the brand intends to meet them.

For starters, the brand’s bringing Lady Gaga to town to headline the “#BoldStage” show on March 13th. But the only way for Little Monsters to land a ticket is to take up a bold challenge from the brand. Doritos is taking the SXSW opportunity to launch its new “Bold Missions” campaign which will use Facebook, Twitter, and Vine to dare its fans to pull off a range of stunts and challenges in return for prizes. At SXSW, the prize is one of 2,000 tickets to see Gaga, and the missions include jumping from a 30-foot high platform to grab a dangling #BoldStage ticket, busk on the street using instruments Doritos provides to earn $10 in 10 minutes or less, and go up against roller derby pros while wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler suit.

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If it sounds a bit crazy, Krishnan thinks the brand has built up a reputation among fans to make it work. “We’ve earned the right to do ambitious things like this because for the last eight years we’ve had a very consistent brand and I think people have come to expect certain things from us, in events, contests and social engagement,” he says.

The Gaga show was moved to the larger location at Stubb’s BBQ, after hitting a major hiccup last week when the city of Austin denied a permit request for the pop star to perform at the original Bold Stage location, a smaller venue, citing “public safety concerns.”

The rest of the brand’s festivities will be at the original Bold Stage under its now familiar giant vending machine. Meanwhile, the “Bold Missions” doesn’t end with Gaga. “This is our big launch for a campaign that will be happening all year,” says Krishnan. “Consumers should keep an eye on our social media channels because you never know what challenge might pop up in your city.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.