Brand Strategy

What it takes to partner with Doritos

Frito-Lay’s SVP of brand marketing Stacy Taffet explains how the brand approaches collabs, like its Doritos Locos Tacos.
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Netflix, Doritos

· 4 min read

Doritos is no stranger to the brand collab. In fact, it does at least one collab a year, according to Stacy Taffet, SVP of brand marketing at Frito-Lay, from the Doritos Locos Taco, which made its debut on Taco Bell menus in 2012 and was reportedly in high demand from the get-go, to its more recent work with the likes of Skullcandy, Netflix, and Burger King.

It might seem like there’s no rhyme or reason to the brand’s wide-ranging list of partnerships, but she said they’re an intentional effort to connect with consumers and “deliver something exciting and innovative to our fans.”

As a result, Doritos won’t just work with any brand that comes its way; the company has walked away from collab opportunities, according to Taffet.

In a recent interview, Taffet shared some insight into what she’s looking for in a brand partner and how Doritos tries to make its collabs stand out.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Start us off with some background about how you think about collabs.

We spend a lot of time just trying to figure out what we can do that’s going to delight our fans, bring them something new that they haven’t experienced before, something that’s really bold and really lives up to the promise of what we have from our brand. Sometimes that means we’re going to introduce innovation, sometimes it means it’s going to be a campaign, and many times, we know that if we partner with another brand—oftentimes in a complementary category of some sort—that is going to surprise and delight our consumers and give them something that they wouldn’t ordinarily get in their day-to-day.

When you said “complementary,” I immediately thought of the Doritos Locos Taco, but you’ve also collaborated with entertainment and fashion properties. What do you mean when you say “complementary”?

Where the fan is. Where they’re living their lives. In many cases, where they’re eating, but in some cases, where they’re just spending their time. So entertainment, a big portion of our fans are gamers. We know that they’re spending a lot of time gaming, and they’re spending a lot of time eating Doritos and gaming at the same time, so we collaborate with Xbox…We give away Game Pass on our bags; we partner on content and influencers, and that’s an example where you take two things that are really important to certain people—Doritos and gaming—and combine them to deliver something that adds extra value that they might not ordinarily see.

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What are you looking for in a partner for a collab?

We’re looking for overlap in consumer base or fan base. We’re looking for brand synergies, so the brand doesn’t have to stand for the same thing, but I would say [it should have] some of the shared values that we have. For Doritos, it’s about being bold, being comfortable in your own skin, pushing boundaries. We’ll look for other brands that share those values and are willing to try some things that maybe are a little more innovative and bolder than we may try on other [Frito-Lay] brands.

How do you make sure there’s a visual or aesthetic balance of both brands on any creative assets?

We usually decide together who the creative developer is going to be. Sometimes we’ll do it in-house, sometimes the partner will do it, and sometimes it’s a third-party advertising agency…Both partners will then work with that creative entity. So even if it’s our internal agency, D3, the partner will still work with that agency most of the time to develop a lot of their assets.

With brand collabs being so popular these days, how do you make sure that yours stand out?

If it’s content or if it’s an actual product, whether that’s food or something else, the quality still has to be outstanding. We worked on the Doritos Locos Taco for many, many, many years before it launched…because not only did we want to put those brands together, but we wanted to deliver a product that could live up to the promise of Doritos and Taco Bell. Now, of course, billions of tacos later and more than 10 years [later], that was obviously a huge success. That’s the extreme example, but even if you’re just producing a piece of content or a package, we want to make sure that the output is of the highest quality and it’s something really valuable to the consumer. I think if you hold yourself to those standards, you can break through.

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