You may not realize it, but market research has a very real impact on your life every single day.

Not only do you form opinions about literally everything in your life, but companies need your opinions to help them improve the products and services they provide to the public.

The burning question here is how do these companies actually know what consumers like yourself think about their products? The answer is market research tells them thanks to surveys, focus groups, interviews, polls and other types of data-collection studies. This has been going on for years, but social media and the Internet have also helped in the data collection process.

You may be sitting there and doubting the process because you’ve never personally participated in any of these formal studies. It’s time to change your mindset though with some real-world examples of how companies utilize market research to improve brands, products and services.

Frito-Lay, a PepsiCo brand, has used market research multiple times in its past to help create new products and engage its consumers in the process. Its also started a revolutionary index to monitor the snacking trends of its consumers.

If you’re not familiar with Frito-Lay’s brands, they include Lay’s Potato Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, Tostitos, Sun Chips, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Ruffles, Funyuns Onion-Flavored Rings, Miss Vickie’s Kettle-Cooked Potato Chips, Cracker Jack and SmartFood.

“Do Us a Flavor” Campaign

In 2012, Frito-Lay started the “Do Us a Flavorcampaign for Lay’s Potato Chips. It was a clever way to conduct market research in-house while also keeping consumers interested and engaged with the brand.

It was developed at a time when Lay’s’ marketing campaigns weren’t reaching younger audiences like the brand would have liked and when the brand was looking to create new products that consumers would enjoy.

The “Do Us a Flavor” campaign was set up to be an annual contest where people all around the world could submit their ideas for a new potato chip flavor. Anyone and everyone could participate.

If someone had an idea for a new potato chip flavor, all they had to do was submit a name for the new chip flavor, a list of up to three ingredients, a quick pitch of the flavor and a bag design for the chip.

Eventually, a panel of Lay’s judges narrowed down all the submissions to three flavors. During the inaugural campaign, the three flavor finalists were Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken and Waffles, and Sriracha.

These three flavors were mass produced and put on grocery store shelves. After buying and trying them, consumers voted for their favorite on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Eventually, Cheesy Garlic Bread won.

The person who created the Cheesy Garlic Bread idea received the greater amount of $1 million or 1% of the flavor’s net sales from the calendar year. The people who created the runners-up flavors both received $50,000.

While the “Do Us a Flavor” campaign was—and still is—an incentivized program, it’s really a mix of marketing genius, product development and consumer engagement.

The crowd-sourced ideas gave Lay’s and Frito-Lay valuable insights to what consumers were interested in trying and purchasing as well as an increased amount of brand awareness from the media coverage of events and even celebrity partnerships to promote the contest.

The campaign also allowed consumers to feel part of the product development process, giving them more of a reason to want to purchase and support Lay’s.

All in all, the “Do Us a Flavor” campaign was firsthand market research on the part of Lay’s and Frito-Lay, which allowed the companies to improve their products for consumers and generate brand awareness.

Frito-Lay U.S. Snack Index

Frito-Lay upped its game when it came to snacks and market research in January 2019 when it released its first ever U.S. Snack Index in conjunction with Morning Consult, a leader in conducting revolutionary market research.

Originally, the U.S. Snack Index was created as a poll to understand what consumers were going to be eating during the 2019 Super Bowl so Frito-Lay could continue to keep its finger on the pulse of the snacking community.

As a result, Morning Consult interviewed small focus groups totaling over 2,200 consumers and asked them all kinds of questions about their snacking habits and what their snacking plans were for the big game. The data was weighted and translated to reflect a larger, nationwide audience and Frito-Lay discovered some very intriguing trends thanks to the new data.

For example, the data showed Chicago’s favorite big game snack was popcorn while Los Angeles’ was potato chips and Boston’s was tortilla chips. It found that younger consumers favored spicy and cheesy snacks over other types of snacks as well, along with additional interesting stats.

Since the initial U.S. Snack Index, Frito-Lay and Morning Consult have put out four more for the 2019 holiday season, the 2020 Super Bowl, summer 2020 and for the 2021 Super Bowl.

The U.S. Snack Index allows Frito-Lay to easily monitor snacking trends around the country with market research in order to help the company create better recipes, new flavors and so much more.

Frito-Lay is just one of many major brands to use market research to learn about its consumers’ behaviors and trends to help improve the products it produces. This is just one reason why market research will continue to be an important aspect of our society for years and years to come.