sorry. i can’t hear you over my sunchips bag.

SunChips has been in the news this week. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been because consumers have been raving about their taste.

The Frito Lay brand of multi-grain chips has gone to great lengths to foster a brand image that reflects a commitment to a “healthier you” and a “healthier planet.” They’re manufactured at a solar powered plant in Modesto, California. They’re made with less salt and tout zero grams of trans-fat. The SunChips website and packaging reflect a color palate of warm yellows, sky blues and earthy greens. And in a move to be even more eco-friendly, the chips were recently repacked in 100% compostable bags.

Obviously, a great deal of attention was given to details that are designed to reflect the brand values consistently across a number of consumer touchpoints. But at the moment, consumers don’t associate SunChips with anything that they see or taste.

They associate SunChips with what they hear.

SunChips has generated a lot of negative buzz over the way they sound. Or more specifically, the way their new bio-degradable packaging sounds – which, if the stories are true, produces an ear numbing 95 decibels of noise.

If you think that’s loud, it’s nothing compared to the deafening outcry from consumers that followed.

From twitter to facebook to the mainstream media, the bags took a beating. So much so, in fact, that Frito Lay is switching out the biodegradable bags and going back to the old packaging.

Regardless of the sunny colors and fresh marketing copy, the brand was undone because, for all its admirable attempts to reduce pollution, it wound up manufacturing pollution of another kind: noise pollution. And while they’ve experienced an 11% drop in sales, there is every indication that SunChips can, and will, develop another, more “sonically friendly” bio-degradable package. They may even benefit from the adverse buzz, focusing a future ad campaign around the “new sound” of SunChips.

It makes you wonder: if SunChips had paid more attention to how their brand was communicated sonically, would they have made different choices and avoided the disconnect between the brand and the sound that ultimately came to represent it? And knowing what they know now, will audio branding become an important element of future marketing strategies?

One Comment

  1. Posted November 9, 2010 at 5:41 am | Permalink | Reply


    this is a very interesting case illustrating how important it is to consider ALL the sounds that are attributed to a brand. It is not just the music one choose for commercials that makes up the acoustic signature of a brand.

    To me this also shows how “everybody is doing it” (see earlier post). A lot of brands already communicate with their target groups and stakeholders through sounds – but are they aware of the messages they are sending?

    It is going to be interesting to observe, whether or not, the sound of Sun Chips is going to become more orchestrated over all.

One Trackback

  1. By life’s for audio branding « iV interactive on November 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    […] iV interactive …musings on audio branding, music, marketing and anything else that strikes our fancy Skip to content about iVabout steve kellerabout uli reese « sorry. i can’t hear you over my sunchips bag. […]

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