Who wants to eat Cheetos for dinner? Thousands of people, apparently. When the brand staged a pop-up restaurant in New York last week, featuring celebrity chef Anne Burrell and dishes like “Mac ‘n Cheetos” and “Cheetos Sweetos Crusted Cheesecake,” the spots rapidly sold out and more than 1,000 hopeful diners added their names to the waiting list.
It’s not the first time Cheetos has staged a clever marketing stunt. Earlier this summer, the brand’s creative agency nabbed five Cannes Lions for the Cheetos Museum, which displayed uniquely shaped Cheetos that happened to resemble other things.
While both concepts may sound bizarre, the creatives behind the campaigns say they got the ideas by paying close attention to what Cheetos fans were talking about online.
“We were inspired by Cheetos fans and popular restaurants nationwide,” Frito-Lay senior director of marketing Ryan Matiyow told Adweek, pointing out that fans were sharing recipes online for everything from Cheetos bagels to Cheetos sushi. Similarly, the idea from the museum came from people posting pictures of Cheetos that looked like other objects, said Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco.
The marketing campaigns’ success highlights the digital chops that helped Cheetos earn a spot in the Gifted category of L2’s Digital IQ Index: Food. A large part of that score comes from the brand’s investments in digital merchandising and advertising: Cheetos products make up an impressive 44% of the Snack Foods category on Amazon Prime Pantry, and the brand’s PLAs appear on 13 unique branded terms. But by designing marketing efforts around fans’ interests, Cheetos proves that it’s also a good listener — a crucial skill as digital word of mouth becomes increasingly necessary for success.