Doritos plays with…lava?

PepsiCo CMO Christine Kalvenes talks about the new Canadian campaign that takes the brand into the belly of a volcano (and is already generating global attention).


To help consumers get over their fear of heat, Doritos is taking them to the heart of a…volcano?

To kick off the limited-time-offer Doritos Inferno line, the brand is rolling out a new VR experience that takes people to the belly of an active volcano. The Canadian-led campaign (which will get global pickup in 2017) marks the first time anyone has ventured into a volcano to deliver a 360-VR experience.

“[Doritos] is the brand that targets hyper-lifers,” says Christine Kalvenes, CMO at PepsiCo Foods. “The brand is focused on delivering bold experiences, and everything we do is about communicating this to this consumer target.”

The target demo in particular is looking for lots of stimulation, constantly wanting to experience new things. As such, the Doritos brand has been active in rolling out new limited-time flavours and cool executions for a while, but this VR experience was a way to really get consumers close to the action. “We were looking for the most intense experience we could find,” she adds. And short of actually taking people to the active volcano (because that would be silly), the brand hunted for an “impressively intense and bold” location to shoot. The team landed on the Ambryn volcano in the heart of the ring of fire, which is as deep as the Empire State Building and is one of the most gaseous and fluid lava lakes in the world, she says.

The original idea to tap into a volcano was born out of the product name, says Derek Blais, VP and ACD at BBDO, the agency behind the push. “We were asking ourselves, what does the word inferno mean? What’s another version of an inferno?” he says. “We immediately went to nature’s inferno.”

This ended up fitting in nicely with the human insight that there’s often a hesitation or fear when it comes to trying new spicy flavours, he adds. But taking consumers to the heart of an active volcano, they were able to say “We don’t fear the heat,” and therefore neither should the consumer.

volcanoThe team partnered with a volcanologist and volcano diver to capture the experience. “We thought we sounded crazy to want to go down into an active volcano,” he says. “But it was a very normal conversation for her.”

The production crew battled acidic rain, gaseous clouds that cut off communication, failed GoPro cameras (they can only withstand so much heat) and ridiculously short filming windows (only a couple minutes at a time, with an eight-hour descent). So perhaps they were a bit crazy.

While the push originated in Canada, it’s since generated some global attention. Though she couldn’t share details, Kalvenes says it’s being adapted on the world stage for a secret Pepsico launch in 2017.

The campaign will be supported with in-store POS and digital extras, including behind-the-scenes and making-of footage, as well as a PR push handled by Citizen Relations. The largely digital experience is a result of the highly fragmented consumer base, Kalvenes says, adding the brand has seen lots of success through digital executions in the past. To kick off the VR execution, a press event was hosted last night, complete with a lava machine. (Kalvenes says there are no immediate plans to take the lava machine on tour to entice consumers, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility.)

Volcano image courtesy of Shutterstock.