By now most people have heard of Mountain Dew testing a Doritos-flavored variant of their popular citrus soda. Among a variety of flavors the soda brand was also testing out, this flavor garnered the most attention for its shocking combination of tortilla chips, cheese, and citrus soda. Many people (including myself) believed that Mountain Dew would eventually launch this flavor nationwide. It seems we were all tricked by the soda brand – thankfully. Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Venessa Wong, the “Dewito” flavor was merely part of a flavor test on college campuses but there were no definite plans for broader release (article link here). Depending on its success, the Dewito flavor would have moved onto the next phase of product introduction though that now seems unlikely based on the chatter it created on social media.
The fact that the flavor stood out among other similarly surprising flavors (ie habanero mango, rainbow sherbet, and lemon ginger) is a sign that individuals talk and share what is most surprising to them. And more importantly, it’s a sign that Mountain Dew recognizes how to reach their target consumers and leverage them to help create media attention. As much as the BusinessWeek article states that this is not a PR stunt, it certainly seems like it was a PR stunt. And ultimately a PR stunt that was successful at helping it garner significant press for a shocking soda flavor.
Understanding that Mountain Dew’s core demographic are millenials, the soda brand found a way to connect with this demographic break. Mountain Dew could have announced flavor testing through a traditional press release, but instead had their Dew fans break the news via the news channels they are most likely to pay attention to. It’s no surprise that millenials are heavy users of Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram, where news of the Dewito flavor first broke. Mountain Dew could have chosen to sample less shocking flavors, and at more generally high traffic areas. Instead, sampling took place on college campuses where strong concentrations of young adults exist. All in all, this seems Mountain Dew providing its fans a chance to help generate some buzz.
As an edgy brand that puts its customers in a position to choose future soda flavors and create branded content for them, Mountain Dew has to take the good with the bad. This Dewito example helped Mountain Dew generate a lot of positive publicity as a soda brand that listens to millenial consumers and anticipates their preferences. Back in 2013, a partnership with Tyler the Creator to help the brand create commercials didn’t go over so well. The commercials generated similar levels of media attention for racial stereotypes and downplaying violence against women (article link here). Mountain Dew has been successful through leveraging fans to create content and carry out its brand communication, so there will be hiccups along the way. For the most part, these are all examples of the soda company pinpointing content and communication channels that resonates with its audience.
The most surprising thing is that all this buzz was generated for a test product, not even one that was planned for limited release. Mountain Dew never needed Dewito to be a successful soda – it just needed it to help it tap into their target demographic.