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Fake Doritos rebrand rallies, and ruffles, fans

A fake Doritos rebrand garnered some hot takes on Twitter this month

No, there isn’t a new Doritos rebrand, but there sure was a lot of confusion on social media. A concept design fired up the chatter and drove a massive amount of traffic to The Drum’s article about a legitimate Doritos rebrand in 2019. The farce, however, goes to show why this classic American brand continues to capture the interest and attention of consumers everywhere.

Doritos, the iconic cheesy, triangular snack, has been leaving fingers coated in orange dust for decades. It’s made us laugh with hilarious Super Bowl commercials. And it’s even made a few appearances on the silver screen. What it hasn’t done is rebrand its iconic packaging this year – much to the confusion of fans, who were recently duped on social media.

In late April, Twitter user @gbrlhoyle, a digital artist, tweeted an image of a new minimalist-style Doritos ‘rebrand’, depicting packaging in solid, matte colors with a streamlined typeface and a simple equilateral triangle replacing the standard blazing, angular version in the logo. He used it in a thread discussing why he opposed the broader trend toward minimalist branding, pointing to Taco Bell’s redesigned logo as a prime example of this shift.

Users, whether predictably or surprisingly, lost it. They turned out en masse to weigh in on the brand’s ‘new look’. One user, @chiefgayofficer, tweeted an image of the alleged rebrand with the caption: “this will haunt me in my dreams tonight.” Another, @BearRigby, spouted: “Why does the Doritos rebrand look like it came straight from the ‘stuff I don’t need’ aisle at Target?” A small minority of users seemed to like the new look – user @codyjacobmusic tweeted: “I LIKE THE DORITOS REBRAND CONCEPT OKAY.”

Determined to learn more, consumers took to Google to find answers. Inevitably, their searches turned up The Drum’s 2019 article on the last real Doritos rebrand, its logo-free ‘anti-ad’ stunt entitled ‘another level’.

Recognizing that gen Zers were increasingly wary of advertising, Doritos launched its ‘another level’ campaign in 2019. The ‘rebrand’ stunt saw the classic red and blue bags stripped of their iconic logo. “Newer generations are increasingly turned off by blatant, promotional marketing and that’s what made this campaign so successful,” says Stacy Taffet, vice-president of marketing at Frito-Lay North America. “They don’t want brands to convince them to spend; they want stories about ideas that move them to share.”

The campaign was reminiscent of an earlier 2007 Doritos campaign – Doritos X-13D Flavor Experiment – in which the chips were packaged in all-black, logo-less bags and consumers were encouraged to guess the mystery flavors within.

Now in 2021, searches for an alleged Doritos rebrand proliferated. But the rebrand was not what it seemed.

Understanding the history of Doritos’s rabid fandom

Doritos wasn’t always the king of the chips. The snack saw humble beginnings in a Frito-Lay-operated Tex-Mex restaurant called Casa de Fritos at Disneyland in California, where leftover tortillas were fried and seasoned to resemble a Mexican snack known as totopo. The then vice-president of marketing at Frito-Lay, Arch West, took note of their popularity and inked a deal with the supplier, Alex Foods. Eventually, Frito-Lay took over production, and Doritos – a take on the Spanish ‘doradito’, which translates roughly to ‘little gold thing’ (note that there are a number of species of yellow birds who have inherited the moniker, including the warbling doradito and the crested doradito) – were born.

Doritos made its commercial debut in 1966 as the first-ever national tortilla chip brand. The first flavor was ‘Toasted Corn’, but by the following year the brand had introduced ‘Taco’ and, in 1972, what would eventually become its most well-loved flavor ‘Nacho Cheese’. ‘Cool Ranch’ came on to the scene in 1986.

Since then, the chip brand has evolved quite a bit. After suffering sales declines in 2005, Doritos rebranded and introduced a slew of new flavors. In 2013 it unveiled a new slogan, ‘For the bold’, alongside an updated logo. Two years later, the special, limited-edition ‘Rainbow Doritos’ were made available for purchase to consumers donating to the nonprofit organization It Gets Better Project, which provides support resources to LGBTQ+ youth.

Stuck at home for the past year or so in various degrees of lockdown, consumption of the crunchy fare only grew. According to Taffet, Doritos has continued “to see increased demand and fandom throughout the pandemic”. In fact, the PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay saw sales climb from $4.07bn to $4.4bn in the first quarter. Covid-induced snacking, combined with hot, new products including Doritos 3D Crunch, have kept consumption high.

Flamin’ hot new flavors and fake news

It became clear that the recent Twitter storm-inducing ‘rebrand’ was not official. But nor was it simply a prank pulled by internet trolls to roil up consumers – it was designed by New York-based designer Michael Irwin, who creates concept designs. Irwin posted the original images of the reimagined Doritos bags on his Instagram account, @michaelirwinco. The images soon surfaced on Twitter, with some users taking the apparent joke a step further.

While its minimalist rebrand may have been a false alarm, the brand is still drumming up other shenanigans and drawing attention on social media. As part of the launch of the new Doritos ‘Xxtra Flamin’ Hot Nacho’ flavor, Doritos and Cheetos recently kicked off the ‘flamin’ hot faceoff’, a campaign that pits the two legendary snack brands against one another in the ultimate test of spicy deliciousness. Consumers are encouraged to weigh in on which chip is better – with branded swag to give away to those who vote for the winner.

Taffet says the brand is sure to continue shaking things up. “Doritos continues to evolve its bold mindset and brand DNA for the next generation,” she says. “Beyond the taste and iconic Doritos flavors, the brand is all about igniting consumers to take what they love to the next level – which will always remain super relevant and engaging since we keep our fans at the center of everything Doritos does.”

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