Instagram trend sparks idea for Cheetos Museum

The brand tells PRWeek how the idea for the campaign, which bagged two Gold PR Lions at Cannes, came about.

The grand prize winner: Hot Cheetos Cat
The grand prize winner: Hot Cheetos Cat

Company: Cheetos
Campaign: Cheetos Museum
Agency mix: Ketchum (PR partner), The Marketing Arm (assisted with microsite, contesting), Goodby Silverstein & Partners (creative digital content)
Duration: May - September 2016

A creative look at Cheetos shapes led to the snack brand bagging two Gold PR Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week.

Joan Cetera, senior director of marketing communications at Cheetos parent Frito-Lay North America, told PRWeek how the idea for the Cheetos Museum campaign came about and how it was set in motion.

Cheetos and its agency partners held a briefing in December 2015 to discuss an interesting social media trend they were seeing.

"We noticed that on Instagram and other social platforms, people were posting images of Cheetos that looked like other things; there was even a full Instagram page dedicated to it at the time," explained Joan Cetera, senior director of marketing communications at Cheetos parent Frito-Lay North America. "The marketing team really knew that this was a consumer behavior that was already happening so that thought was: How do we take this and make it something for everybody?"

The main goal was fueling consumer engagement by encouraging people to look into a bag of Cheetos and see what shapes they could find. This is where the idea for the Cheetos Museum was born.

Cheetos looked to create a digital platform that would allow consumers to view, vote on, and submit their own unique Cheetos shapes. The PR team also wanted to develop a few on-air broadcast opportunities which would help bolster the campaign's launch, generate widespread media coverage, and get the campaign trending on social outlets.

On social platforms, specifically Facebook and Twitter, the campaign team sought to use short-form content to direct people back to the Cheetos Museum microsite.

Ketchum was in charge of the earned media strategy and ran media outreach efforts. Goodby Silverstein & Partners produced digital creative content that would be pushed across digital, social, and traditional channels throughout the campaign. The Marketing Arm helped the brand develop the microsite,, and the user-submission contest.

On May 30, the brand's social media accounts posted teasers to announce the opening of the Cheetos Museum.

The microsite went live the next day, enabling fans to submit their own Cheetos shapes for a chance at winning cash or other prizes. On that night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! show, the host’s sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez was featured in a short segment about the Cheetos Museum.

Several days later, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, from NBC's Today show also helped showcase the campaign.

"We partnered the launch with actual Cheetos art we created for national morning shows," said Cetera. "We had a picture of [Gifford] and [Kotb] drinking glasses of wine and they loved it so much they ended up unveiling and talking about it on-air."  

The user-submission contest ran through August 31. The grand prize winner from Texas won $50,000 with her submission: Hot Cheetos Cat.

Thanks to the success of the digital aspect of the campaign, the team decided to create a physical museum to house 40 of the most distinctive submissions from the contest. Cheetos held a pop-up exhibit, from September 21-22, in the Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The Cheetos Museum contest received more than 100,000 user submissions. Videos content produced as part of the campaign received more than 23 million views across social and traditional outlets.

In June 2016, the Cheetos website received 1.47 million views, which was 525% above the brand's monthly average. The Cheetos Museum also was trending on Facebook from June 21-23, 2016.

The campaign resulted in 4,831 media placements. Notable outlets which featured the campaign include: HuffPost, Refinary29, Food Beast, The Daily Meal, WGN-TV, and CNN's Morning Express with Robin Meade.

Cheetos recorded its strongest sales week ever, when the campaign was running last summer.

The campaign is revamping this summer and includes a notable partnership with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in New York City at Times Square, featuring nearly 130,000 Cheetos built into an art exhibit.

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