Less Guilt Sells More Chips

Selling salty chips to guys isn’t all that difficult. As the classic Lay’s commercial noted, “You can’t eat just one!” Give a guy a chip, and before you know it the bag is gone. For women, though, salty foods are the snack of choice just 14% of the time. They prefer sweet snacks (25%) and, amazingly, healthier fare like fruits and vegetables (61%). Disturbed that women might prefer carrot sticks to potato chips, Frito Lay decided to get inside women’s heads. Literally.

Frito Lay began by hiring Juniper Park, a division of BBDO, to look at how differences in women’s brains might affect their snacking decisions:

Ms. Nykoliation [president of Juniper Park] began by researching how women’s brains compared with men’s, so the firm could adjust the marketing accordingly. Her research suggested that the communication center in women’s brains was more developed, leading her to infer that women could process ads with more complexity and more pieces of information.

A memory and emotional center, the hippocampus, was proportionally larger in women, so Ms. Nykoliation concluded that women would look for characters they could empathize with. And research Ms. Nykoliation read linked the anterior cingulate cortex, which processes decision-making and was larger in women, to feelings of guilt. [From the New York Times - Frito-Lay Tries to Enter the Minds (and Lunch Bags) of Women by Stephanie Clifford.]

While that analysis involves a few leaps of faith, the idea of guilt proved to be significant when it seemed to be supported by women’s journal entries, another part of the project. Many women, the study found, carry a variety of guilt feelings around. This realization lead to a major packaging redesign – the new bags were designed to not trigger guilt reactions byavoiding the look of traditional chip bags and instead featuring pictures of healthy ingredients on a matte beige bag.

The ads developed for the Baked Lays campaign were then further refined by testing at Neurofocus, a neuromarketing firm that uses EEGs and biometric data to measure brain activity and viewer response to advertisements. You can see for yourself if they succeeded at AWomansWorld.com.


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— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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3 responses to "Less Guilt Sells More Chips" — Your Turn


Dr Wright 4. March 2009 at 3:51 pm

I guess they think a woman’s brain wants to waste time. The games on that site are lame.
Ads for the products would have worked better in a real game with a product placement.

Great article though!
Dr Letitia Wright
The Wright Place TV Show


Gary Smith 5. March 2009 at 6:25 pm

Interesting insight into women’s psychology for me.

Not sure what this had to do with selling potato chips. I saw popcorn. I saw a cookie.

Didn’t see any Frito Lays. Good idea though.

Gary Smith


Richard 17. March 2009 at 12:19 pm

I believe that there are many reasons why women are quite partial to a salty chip and postponement on eating the whole bag. This is a good idea but only skims on the surface and depicts only a single notion. A series of these videos would work nicely.


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