Five Ways to Replicate the DLT:
Posted on December 10, 2013
Written by Hunter Thurman
Once in a pinch during college, I invented Doritos Locos Nachos. That’s right. I put Doritos on a plate, sprinkled shredded cheese over them, nuked it, and – boom – innovative juggernaut. But, alas, the state that compelled me to the genius of this idea cruelly also precluded me from remembering it the following morning.
The point is, the obviousness / greatness of the idea behind Doritos Locos Tacos is apparent. And it’s been well covered by the marketing biz press, like Fast Company. But while “what happened” is certainly interesting, decoding “why it happened” – and how to bottle some of that lightning – is surely on the minds of brand marketers everywhere…
The idea was had. Boom. But from there, bringing the product to reality was no easy feat. Here are the 5 reasons the DLT made it beyond a mere idea in a Frito-Lay conference room to the palates of millions:
1. They found weak ties
Social media is driven by this principle. You find the “weak ties” that are not obvious, but dramatically impact behavior nonetheless. In the case of the DLT, the team found the weak tie that T-Bell has to its competitive burger brethren: the bun.
The tortilla – in the form of a taco shell – has been taken for granted for years. By observing all the innovation in the sandwich world around the bun, the team was inspired to re-examine a component that had been under their noses all along.
Every brand in every category has weak ties it can leverage. In fact, they’re often just as simple as the taco shell example. But it takes discipline to see them.
2. They used ‘bottoms up’ design
With the simple observation that no one had innovated the tortilla / shell for decades, the team then employed the ‘bottom-up’ design approach. In other words, start with the simplest, most obvious design options. The now famous trip to Home Depot for a paint sprayer is classic bottom-up thinking.
Rather than write an R&D brief and bog down with over-complicating the process, the team just made it happen to create momentum.
3. They failed cheaply (and privately)
Important to note, is that the paint sprayer solution didn’t really work. The early prototypes were a bust with consumers. By exposing early prototypes early-and-often, the team accomplished two things: first, they gained invaluable feedback that empowered them iterate towards the ultimate winning product. Second, they failed cheap, and privately.
Rather than work for months in the lab and then – TA DA! – exposing the resulting taco shell in a quantitative sensory test, the team gave itself permission to fail. And did so in a cheap, private fashion – crucial to eventually cracking the code and delivering a winning product.
4. They took non-essential things away
It’s a design truth that it’s easier to add things than to take them away. That’s why the iPhone was such magic: one button. The Apple design team took every non-essential thing away. Meanwhile, BlackBerries of the same vintage had everything from rolling “pearls” to scroll wheels to Facebook buttons.
Rather than pack more stuff into a taco shell, the design and development team got out of the way of the core idea: a Dorito’s taco shell. No added shenanigans or non-essential components.
5.They created the MVP and iterated
The MVP stands for the “minimum viable product” – a term popularized in the world of software start-ups. The concept is simple: don’t get caught up in trying to make the best product ever; focus on making the minimal offering you need to be successful.
A taco shell flocked with flavoring by a Home Depot paint sprayer is classic MVP – and the key to creating the excitement that ultimately propelled the DLT through the dark days of R&D and into the history books as one of the most famous innovations in recent years.
These principles are drawn from Hunter Thurman’s new book, Brand Be Nimble: How big brands can thrive by innovating like start-ups. The book is a result of Thurman’s global experience across every consumer packaged goods category, complemented by his work as an innovation mentor to Cincinnati’s start-up accelerator, The Brandery. Taken together, Hunter’s perspective forms a how-to in reviving stale innovation processes by integrating the subconscious voice of the consumer to create new product success for global consumer brands.