Cheetos goes touchless in hands-free pop-up at SXSW

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Cheetos is debuting a “Hands-Free House” in Austin, Texas, during South By Southwest (SXSW) this month, per a press release shared with Marketing Dive.┬áThe immersive experience showcases hands free-devices that are compatible with people whose fingers are coated in orange “Cheetle” dust left from eating the Frito-Lay snack.
  • The experiential house is part of a broader campaign that includes a new commercial examining whether Cheetle is the inspiration behind devices like a hands-free vending machine, voice-controlled appliances and smudge-free remotes. After the in-person experience closes, a virtual one will be made available online.
  • With the stunt, Cheetos joins a growing list of brands looking to connect with consumers through more personal immersive experiences, both in-person and virtually.

Dive Insight:

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease once again, brands are returning to in-person experiences that were popular before the pandemic. Recently, Kind Snacks unveiled a secret farmers market while the NBA opened a bar-arcade in Cleveland, Ohio. Cheetos is attempting a similar in-person fan experience with its SXSW installation, complete with hands-free appliances and activities for visitors.

The interactive house will be open from March 12 to 15. After guests stroll through the experiential pop-up, a backyard with catering is available for networking and socializing.

The campaign takes advantage of Cheetos’ iconic bright orange dust, which has a tendency to stick on fingers. The dust, known as Cheetle, has been the centerpiece of several previous Cheeto campaigns, such as a Cheetle-centric art installation in November, a Cheetle finger scanner that debuted in a campaign last summer and Cheeto-flavored wings.

As pandemic restrictions again begin to lift, brands have the opportunity to reach consumers on a personal face-to-face level. Cheetos’ experiential pop-up at SXSW allows for a memorable, interactive experience that will likely drum up additional user-generated content as visitors snap and share photos to social media. The Frito-Lay brand is also extending its effort online once the in-person experience wraps. By doing this, the snack brand is able to reach potential customers who may not be able to visit the house in-person. As mixed realities become a more common part of marketing strategies with the emergence of the metaverse and proliferation of augment/virtual reality tech, digital experiences seem to be just as, if not more, important than in-person ones.

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