It was the crunch heard ’round the marketing world.
In a “Freakonomics Radio” interview, journalist Stephen Dubner asked PepsiCo’s chief executive, Indra Nooyi, about the differences between chip-eating habits for men and women:
DUBNER: I understand that men and women eat chips very differently. Can you tell us the differences?
NOOYI: When you eat out of a flex bag — one of our single-serve bags — especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavor, and the broken chips in the bottom. Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.
Nooyi then confirmed that the company was “getting ready to launch” snack products made specifically for women:
DUBNER: So is there a male and female version of chips that you’re playing with, or no?
NOOYI: It’s not a male and female as much as “are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?” And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women, low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse. The whole design capability we built in PepsiCo was to allow design to work with innovation. Not just on packaging colors, but to go through the entire cycle, and say, “All the way to the product in the pantry, or how it’s being carried around, or how they eat it in the car, or drink it in the car, what should be the design of the product, the package, the experience, so that we can influence the entire chain?”
Though Nooyi never said PepsiCo was making “Lady Doritos,” that was the phrase emblazoned across several headlines after the interview—and one used in angry Twitter users’ criticisms.
The term “Lady Doritos” trended throughout Monday on Twitter, making it to the second-most popular among U.S. users. Here’s a sampling of the snarky tweets shared as people lashed out against Nooyi and PepsiCo for the remarks:
i’m still laughing about lady doritos because i don’t know a single woman who doesn’t knock back the crumbs in the bottom of the bag
— Justine Raymond (@jmarieray) February 5, 2018
Sure the new lady Doritos might be quiet and dainty to eat, but are they absorbent enough to use on my heavy flow days?
— Tiffany Midge (@TiffanyMidge) February 5, 2018
instead of crunching noise the new Lady Doritos just say “sorry” quietly every time you bite down
— ariel (@arielgitlin) February 5, 2018
I’ve heard from my inside snack sources that the new Lady Doritos bags have inspiring slogans pasted on them like “You should smile more!” and “You’ll never get a husband THAT way!”.
— Fran Snarkenton (@KeepMNBlue) February 5, 2018
The only good thing about the new quiet “Lady Doritos” is now they can’t hear us coming pic.twitter.com/irMRblNDP4
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) February 5, 2018
Women: We want equal pay for equal work and an end to sex discrimination in the workplace.
Society: Here’s a bag of Lady Doritos so you won’t have to crunch too loudly in front of your male colleagues.
— Marie Connor (@thistallawkgirl) February 5, 2018
Lady Doritos should be so crunchy that the noise drowns out the whining of any man within a 10-foot radius https://t.co/ZqheTHXv5s
— Elahe Izadi (@ElaheIzadi) February 5, 2018
Will Lady Doritos cost 23% less than regular Doritos?
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) February 5, 2018
in addition to Lady Doritos, Doritos plans to make Alpha Male Doritos, which will be just shards of broken glass
— Born Miserable (@bornmiserable) February 5, 2018
Questions I have about the forthcoming lady Doritos:
1. May I request they be salted with the tears of our enemies?
2. Will they be priced to align with the gender pay gap?
3. If a lady is OK with crunching, crumbs and public eating, is she banned from purchasing them?
— Kim Bongiorno (@LetMeStart) February 5, 2018
Some Twitter users wondered what conversations had to take place in the company’s marketing rooms to launch such a product:
The “Lady Doritos” thing reminds of of that really bizarre “Dr. Pepper 10” (cuz dudes don’t do diet, I guess, so they found 10 calories to toss in there) that had the tag line “It’s not for women!” The advertising world is weird. pic.twitter.com/CGcIO4YChL
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) February 5, 2018
Exec 1: Anyone know what women want?
Exec 2: I’ve never gotten close to a woman.
Exec 3: Me neither.
Exec 1: Every time I get close, they hear me snacking on doritos and run away.
Exec 3: SAME
Exec 2: Let’s make quiet doritos
Exec 1: LADY DORITOS!
— Frederick Douglass (@gettinnoticedmo) February 5, 2018
I want to know how the Lady Doritos conversation went
Bob: Hey Sharon! Doritos needs to take a stronger stance in the Me Too movement. Any ideas?
Sharon: Equal pay… perhaps more resources for women who experience harassment in the workplace?
Bob: Doritos for Ladies. Got it!
— megan (@m_dot_brown) February 5, 2018
* assigned to Lady Doritos campaign *
* not enough savings to quit * pic.twitter.com/aeXxvcKRLC
— Mad Men Bon Mots (@MadMenQTs) February 5, 2018
Several journalists derided the remarks with sarcastic write-ups.
In “Lady Doritos: A solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” The Guardian’s Emine Saner wrote:
In the world of crisps, there are only a handful of products that are obviously created for a specific consumer – flame-grilled, meaty ridges for the most masculine of men, stupid low-fat, rice-cake-based “crisps” for oppressed women and pickled onion Monster Munch for true connoisseurs.
In his Chicago Tribune column, “Lady Doritos that don’t crunch: A brief mansplation,”Rex Huppke wrote:
It’s a well-established rule of etiquette that a proper lady never pours the flavor into her mouth. But in the modern era, is it fair that a woman should do without delicious, flavor-dusted corn-ish chips simply because her consumption volume would shatter the feminine mystique?
… So kudos to Frito-Lay for seeking out ways to deliver soggy chips to women who wish to be seen but not heard eating snacks that have less flavor than man-food.
And hopefully, farmers and food manufactures will get to work making a few other items accessible to women. I suggest the following: “Soft Peanut Brittle … For Ladies”; “Crunch-Free She-Carrots”; “Cap’n-ette No-Crunch cereal”; and “Pringles in a Jar of Water.”
The backlash grew to a point where PepsiCo and Doritos were forced to respond—and they did so by saying “Lady Doritos” didn’t exist.
On Monday evening, Doritos tweeted:
We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos, and they’re loved by millions.
— Doritos (@Doritos) February 6, 2018
In response to a request for comment, a PepsiCo representative told Adweek that “the reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate,” despite Nooyi’s statement indicating otherwise.
“We already have Doritos for women—they’re called Doritos, and they’re enjoyed by millions of people every day,” the spokesperson added. “At the same time, we know needs and preferences continue to evolve, and we’re always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers.”
Some PR pros might liken this crisis to a gaffe by Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, who in 2014 apologized after making remarks about women and raises at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
In his apology, Nadella said he was “inarticulate.” Some might argue that Nooyi was, too, in this case (though she was very descriptive)—and as a result, Doritos and PepsiCo are facing the wrath of offended consumers.
What would you advise PepsiCo’s brand managers to do at this point, PR Daily readers?