PepsiCo wanted to (re)connect the Ruffles brand with the Turkish youth. For
six weeks a ‘Market Research Online Community’ (or ‘Consumer Consulting
Board’) was the central hub in which the dialogue between Gen Y, the Ruffles
brand team and the advertising agencies of PepsiCo took place. In three
sequential stages we moved from generating insights into Turkish youth’s everyday life
and their aspirations over testing and fine-tuning activation platforms and campaigns to
creating an understanding of the role of social media in brand activation today.
To enhance decision making, we wanted to connect all stakeholders to a maximum
extent with the target group. To realize that, we created several touch points
between the consumer world (the research results) and the business world (the
marketing team and their objectives) while sharing our research results: online and
offline consumer immersion exercises with all stakeholders, intermediate debriefs and
workshops, a creative brainstorming session and a live chat session with
members of the community during that brainstorm.
This paper gives insights into the power of using research communities to
deeply understand a target group and in the value of ‘triangulation’in
qualitative research (tackling the same issue from different angles and with different
eyes). It also illustrates how creating several touch points between the consumer
world and the business world can deliver bigger impact on marketing
Ruffles, a PepsiCo brand, wanted to (re)connect
with the younger generation in Turkey as the
brand faced two big challenges: fighting a
crowded online branded space and finding
the right brand position for the brand,
against other brands within the crisps
category - both from competitors and PepsiCo
itself (Lay’s and Doritos) - and other snack
categories (e.g. nuts).
Turkish Gen Y is very proud of their Turkish
background and really value successful Turkish
companies and their heritage. Despite the global
economic crisis, youth in Turkey acknowledge an
increasingly prominent role of their country in economic and
political world play. It is a positive and individually
empowered generation but at the same time a very social
and ‘we’-oriented group with friends as ‘dynamic’ and
parents as ‘static’ anchor points. Ruffles’ “Live life to the
most” brand platform had the right potential to
connect with this ambitious Turkish young
generation, but the real question was how to translate this
slogan into a relevant and differing positioning as well as an
online and offline brand activation strategy. The research
project’s aim was to link Turkish Gen Y’s context and
lifestyle to the Ruffles product experience and brand
image and detect the ideal roads for further brand
Empowering Generation Y
Generation Y, aka the ‘Millennials’ (born in the
80s and in the first half of the 90s), is the
ultimate product of our postmodern
society. Gen Y wants everything at the
same time and wants it right here, right
now. They are more engaged than
They strongly voice their opinions and want to act
upon their ideas. They feel empowered to change
the world themselves. Being born in a society that
celebrates individual success and stimulates them to
become unique and special, they claim the ownership
of their own lives in every single aspect. GenYers are
more marketing-savvy and will immediately see
through fake marketing strategies. ‘Directness’,
‘transparency’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘closeness’ are what
they expect from the brands they embrace (Van den
Bergh & Behrer, 2013).
All of this clearly affects the way marketing, branding and research targeting this new consumer group should
evolve. In order to succeed in our mission to deeply understand Turkish youth and what they expect from
Ruffles as a brand, we had to find the appropriate way to truly connect with them and engage this
‘empowered’ generation into a research project. Given the fact that they are ‘digital natives’, online
research seemed to be a logic option, despite the fact that experience with online (qualitative) research was
low in the Turkish market in general. Moreover, the chosen method should allow the youngsters to be involved
closely in shaping the future of a brand they like. Given these criteria, an online research community (see
Figure 1) was chosen as the backbone of this
research project: bringing together a
larger group of participants (100
youngsters) over a longer period of time
(six weeks) on a closed online platform to
connect with the brand and co-create
future actions together (InSites Consulting,
2013). This online qualitative method taps into
Gen Y’s online knowledge on the one hand
and leaves much room for participant
empowerment and content creation on the
Figure 1: The Ruffles Community platform
Translation for maximal connection
Given the postmodern character of Generation Y, it
is difficult and rather complex to get a valid, clear
and holistic view of their behavior, attitudes and
perceptions. In order to create a true
understanding of what it is like to be young
in today’s Turkish society and to bring fresh
and unique insights onto the table, we
combined different methods and techniques in this
qualitative research project. We applied the
principle of ‘triangulation’ (Guin et al, 2012), with
the research community as the central hub of the
project. We investigated the same issue from
five different angles and by doing so created
a more adequate and deeper understanding
(see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Triangulation in qualitative research
1 Theory triangulation (combining different views on consumer behavior):
We think less than we think we think; we are bad witnesses of our own behavior. So, it is important
to both observe and talk with a target group to create real and deep understanding. In this
project we combined online and offline observational techniques with different forms of qualitative
discussion (= method triangulation):
We found it important to connect with this generation in both the online and the offline world by
combining auto-ethnography (online) and consumer immersion sessions in Istanbul (offline), this
in order to combine the openness of online blog postings/pictures and the true sensing
experience of offline connections with youngsters in their natural habitat.
Combination of synchronous and asynchronous qualitative discussions
We combined synchronous (live chat) and asynchronous (forum) qualitative discussions: catching
both spontaneous reactions and the opportunity to have a real-time dialogue between the
target group and the business world (both the advertiser’s (PepsiCo) perspective and the
agencies), next to gathering well thought-off reactions and stimulating interaction between members on
the forum for richer insights.
2 Investigator triangulation (different types of people analyzing the data):
To get the maximum out of the data, not only the agency and client-side researchers were confronted
with the data. All stakeholders were involved in making sense of the observations and
discussions by playing online data interpretation games as a homework exercise and via
the insight generation exercises during the offline workshops. Even participants were involved
in helping us with the analysis in a crowd-interpretation game (participants were asked in three steps
to analyze raw data curated by the community moderator and the research team). Those community
participants or ‘co-researchers’helped us to fill our ‘blind spots’ (things we do not see or find
because we are not part of the target group and the context they live in) and bring more, sharper and
better insights into the table. Depending on the topic, between 20 and 40% additional insights were
found for the curated pieces of data by involving participants in the analysis process.
Combination of individual and group discussions
To gain understanding in the ‘me’ versus the ‘we’ dimension of the category consumption and brand
positioning, both individual (via a blog) and group discussions (via online focus groups and the forum on
the community) were used to create an ideal mix between individual observations and group
Co-creating the future of Ruffles
Taking these specifications into account, we crafted the design for a 6-week community
project in three stages of two weeks each:
To fully understand Gen Y and the current product/brand experience, we asked participants to keep a
multi-media blog during two weeks. Based on auto-ethnographic tasks, we found insights we could
Phase 1 - Consumer Immersion
Phase 2 - Brand Activation and Campaigns
In the second part of the project, the objective was to further develop brand activation platforms
and to test and fine-tune campaign ideas together with the community members. During these two
weeks, the creative agency was inspired by the community members’ feedback.
Phase 3 - Social Media Marketing
Technology, digital and social media are playing an important role in the lives of Generation Y. It was
crucial to truly understand the Turkish context and to give the social strategy a central place in
brand activation and every campaign. This is what the final stage of the community was all about.
Researcher: think big and act as a brand
The community was a success among the
participants, they really liked this way of
being involved in the future of a brand they
all know and love. One of the big learnings was
that the brand needed to be repositioned from a
‘me’- to a more ‘we’-oriented brand. Both the
Ruffles brand and the product experience
occasions seemed to be strongly linked with
emotional social sharing moments and rituals.
Secondly, until now the brand was especially
tailored for a male target group. During the project,
it became clear that there were many opportunities
in shaping Ruffles into a more unisex brand, while
not letting go of its relatively male skew. These
types of ‘big changes’ asked for an internal
change management both at PepsiCo and at
the agency side.
The research team had to convince the brand
teams as well as the creative agencies that this was
the way to go. Moreover, they needed to inspire and
direct all stakeholders to allow them to execute the
new brand strategy in the best possible way. We
believe researchers should think and act more
as a brand (manager). Just like a contemporary
and Gen Y proof brand (manager), they have to
create relevant touch points between the message
(the research results) and the audience (the
different stakeholders in the project) in order to get
to maximum impact (understanding of the target
group and fresh inspiration to take action upon). As
marketers, we should ‘advertise’and ‘promote’
our research results through a variety of
channels, rather than stick to the typical
PowerPoint end presentation.
Meaningful consumer touch points
To enhance decision making, we wanted to connect all stakeholders to the maximum with the
target group. To realize that, we acted as ‘content marketer’ and created various touch
points between the consumer world (the research results) and the business world (the
marketing team and their objectives) while sharing our research results (Troch et al, 2012).
It is best to do so in three consecutive stages: ‘engage’ (= confronting the research user with the
consumer world and with their own (limited/partial) knowledge of the target group), ‘inspire’ (=
sharing the key insights in an inspiring and entertaining way) and ‘activate’ (= translating the insights
into concrete next steps and actions).
Next we will give an overview of our plan to share the right information and inspiration
at the right time via the most optimal channels and formats.
1 Intermediate debriefs and workshops
Debrief After the first 10 days of the project, a first debrief took place with the internal
clients. In this session, the target group was brought to life through
pictures and quotes. See it as a first confrontation with the consumers’ lives
and their brand perceptions.
After three weeks, a full-day workshop was organized. In this session the
results of the first half of the community were shared. We paid a lot
of attention that day to creating a thorough understanding of what Turkish
youth expects from life, brands in general and Ruffles in specific. We tried
to realize this by not only ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ them the results, but also by
‘involving’ them in the research process, as is described further in this
2 Online and offline consumer immersion exercises with all
A couple of days before the intermediate workshop all attendees
(researchers, marketers and creatives) received a homework task. They
had to follow one participant for three days across the different
topics on the community in order to get a slice of life of one particular
As a part of the workshop, all attendees had to interpret a handful
of raw data that had led us towards some of the key
conclusions. By performing this task, they were able to almost
discover the findings themselves.
As a break during the session, attendees were meeting up with
youngsters in their own houses, in the streets of Istanbul or in a
bar, thus adding another layer of understanding of the target group.
After the immersion exercises, the presentation of the results and our
conclusions, the workshop day closed off with a live chat session with
the 10 most interesting community members who tackled the final
questions from the audience.
3 Closing workshop - a creative ideation session
Synthesize This workshop at the very end of the project started with a short
overview of what we had learned in the first part of the
community and the intermediate workshop. After that results
from the tests of activation material and campaigns were discussed
and put into perspective.
Right before the ideation session, a last dose of fresh thinking was
injected during a two-hour inspiration session full of insights
and cases on marketing towards Gen Y from around the world, both
from within and out of the snack category, an ideal spring board
towards the apotheosis of the project.
Give context and inspire
Ideate During this ultimate brainstorm, materials were fine-tuned and a plan
of action was crafted interactively (in small groups consisting of
both brand team members and agencies) among the multidisciplinary
team. Each team competed with the other on finding the best new
brand activation and communication ideas.
A recipe for success
To assess ‘whether’and ‘how’we
succeeded in our mission to connect
the PepsiCo team and their
advertising agencies with the target
group and inspire them to take
relevant actions, we conducted
interviews among the client/agency
side participants in this project: 11 in
total (two client-side researchers, four
marketers and five creatives). We
organized this four months after the study
was finished, in order to see the real post-
project impact within the business.
Here is an overview of the different actions taken by PepsiCo,
based on the results of this community study:
1 First of all, the brand got a sharper and more differentiating positioning (different than
e.g. Doritos and other more ‘we’-oriented and purely male-focused brands).
2 Next to that, the team realized that the brand was a bit too extreme in its communication
and in making use of celebrities. It had lost touch with the everyday life of the Turkish Gen Y
target group. Based on the inspiration in the community, a campaign around a football star
(Pascal Nouma) was started to move the brand closer to Turkish Gen Y’s life;.
3 Based on what they had learned during the immersion phase in this community project,
marketers and creatives started to include more of Gen Y’s jargon and thinking
in creative developments.
4 Finally, the brand tonality on social media was adapted.
The interviews also gave us an insight in the impact of our phased approach in communicating
the research results at the end result, the overall ‘stickiness’ of the project
1 Most of the interviewees indicated that the research delivered to them fresh insights and
especially a deeper understanding of the target group, through the almost daily or
weekly confrontation with the consumer in different formats over a longer period of time.
2 Involving internal stakeholders in the research process works. Being immersed in the
target group creates ‘consumer feeling’, discovering some of the results yourself makes it easier
to comprehend and believe them, performing exercises forces one to think like a consumer.
Reading, experiencing and sharing the consumers’ stories made the team members
remember the most important research results even months after the final presentation.
3 Overall, this project approach convinced the researcher team at PepsiCo Turkey of
research communities as a solid method to connect with this young group of
Generation Y consumers. All parties involved in the project are more than ever convinced
that it is worth the time and effort to immerse into the consumers’ world and especially that
consumers can bring great value to the table.
and the actions taken:
Let’s do some reverse engineering to discover why we were successful in creating a big impact with this research
by framing some results of the qualitative interviews into the model of ‘success for effective communication’ that
Dan and Chip Heath described in their book ‘Made to Stick’ (2007):
Give an idea believability: by confronting stakeholders with the raw data and by
involving them in the research process, we build credibility both for the methodology
and for the value of the voice of the consumer.
Grab people's attention by surprising them: by highlighting the interesting
consumer stories along the way, you highlight the value of the research and the
voice of the target group.
Help people see the importance
of an idea: it seems to be key to
confront the audience with the real
people and their real stories and
emotions. Bring them to life through
pictures, videos, quotes and stories.
Stories Empower people to use an idea through narrative: involve stakeholders in the research
process and confront them with consumers several times; by doing that, they get the
opportunity to create their own narrative via which they will remember the most important
conclusions of the study.
Find the core of any idea: the core task of the research team in the end is to connect
the dots and to simply and clearly present the final conclusions. The broad consumer
feeling and understanding created during the first phase of the project will help to put
these conclusions and recommendations into perspective.
Make sure action is taken based
upon an idea: the most important
task of a research team is to make
sure the ideal conditions are created
to take relevant action during and
after the closing session.
Special thanks to Martijn van Bijnen and Sarianne van der Hoest for
their brilliant account and research work for the Ruffles research project and the
workshops as well as to the PepsiCo brand teams and the different
Van den Bergh, J. & Berger, M. (2013). How Cool Brands Stay Hot - Second Edition, Kogan Page.
Chip, D. & Chip, H. (2007). Made to stick, Random House.
Guin, L., Diehl, D. and McDonald, D. (2012), Triangulation: Establishing the validity of qualitative
InSites Consulting (2013). The Consumer Consulting Board: Consumers Shaping your Business,
De Ruyck, T. et al (2011). Engage, Inspire, Act: 3 Step Stones towards Developing more Impactful
Products. ESOMAR Congress.
Troch, T. et al (2012). Doing More with Less: Crossing the Boundaries of Qualitative to Increase
Business Impact. ESOMAR Qualitative Conference.
Tom De Ruyck
Head of Consumer Consulting Boards
Consumer Insights Manager
Joeri Van den Bergh
Research Innovation Manager
Head of Research Innovation