Frito-Lay CMO Krishnan Uses Data To Cash In On His Chips

By: Staff | Feb 26 2016


CPG brands have a tougher time than others in understanding whether marketing moves the sales needle. Frito-Lay has not only created attention-getting promotions, it has also managed to track social media activity through to the cash register. That’s the result of relentless testing and experimentation, according to Ram Krishnan, CMO of Frito-Lay North America.

Krishnan has been a marketer his entire career, joining PepsiCo in 2006 after stints at General Motors and Cadillac. He’s responsible for the “Lay’s Do Us a Flavor” campaign that garnered 1.2 billion organic impressions on Facebook and boosted sales by 8.5% in 2014. For this year’s contest, the chip maker added a partnership with the UberRush delivery service.

Krishnan is a data geek–his Twitter handle is even @Ramalytics. To that end, recently talked to him about how to incorporate very big data throughout the marketing process, from ideation through ROI, and how his huge corporation keeps up with the ever-changing social-media landscape.

The first question we asked him was, of course: What’s your favorite crowdsourced flavor?

Krishnan: Last year’s Wasabi Ginger was one of my favorites. When I started at the company in 2006, if someone had told me we would be launching a flavor called Wasabi Ginger for Lay’s, an Americana, 77-year-old brand, I wouldn’t have believed it. I especially like it because it reflects the changing palate of consumers in this country. I also like 2015’s winner–Southern Biscuits and Gravy. You sit at the top of a pyramid of big-spending brands and brand managers. How do you see your role as a technology thought leader for the company, and how does it play out day to-day?

Krishnan: No other function, outside of information technology, is changing as dramatically and rapidly as the marketing function. This change is driven by three things: One is consumer expectations of a brand. Customers want a two-way communication with brands, versus the one-way communication we used to do when I started my career. The second is data. Consumers are quite willing to give up data as long as you add value back. Third, the technology for ways to connect with consumers has exponentially expanded.

These three things have led to redefining the role of the marketer. Within our company, I keep telling our marketers, “Your job description has changed. You are no longer a marketer; you’re a marketing technologist.” You can’t decouple technology anymore. It informs and educates the creative; it’s a part of the creative.


For full interview, visit

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