Five Ways to Replicate the DLT:

Posted on December 10, 2013
Written by Hunter Thurman

Doritos Locos Nachos

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.

iWatch Answers What We Feel About Brands

Posted on May 22, 2013
Written by Hunter Thurman


This article originally appeared in MediaPost.

Recently, a well-timed “leak” finally answered the pundits’ query: how will Apple continue the innovation hit parade? The unlikely answer: a watch.

Beyond delivering the coolest accessory since 1983’s “Frogger” video game watch, this new trend of wearability will usher in a new era in the way we live, feel, choose — and consume.


From Google glasses to the anticipated iWatch, technology is becoming more and more integrated into our lives. And while conversations abound about text, voice, video, and audio abound, there has been little discussion of the area with the most meaningful marketing potential: physiometric feedback.

Physiometric feedback, also referred to as biofeedback, is the measurement by electronic devices of the natural signals our body emits about how we’re feeling, often measured through contact with the skin. Impending technology breakthroughs assure that we’re on the brink of the mass consumerization of this capability — the ability for one to have an unprecedented understanding of what he or she is feeling about products or services at any given moment.

Weird, right? Don’t we inherently know how we’re feeling about our preferences? A deeper understanding of the way our brains function reveals that our conscious minds are actually quite detached from our “paleo” brains — the old part of our brains where raw emotions form.

That’s the technical part. And that’s also a significant roadmap into consumer psyches for brand marketers.

Presently, consumers assess CPG products in three phases. Phase 1 is where marketers burn a lot of midnight oil. What we tell consumers is what initially gets products in the cart.

Then comes Phase 2: the sensory experience. The five senses are the means by which we navigate the world, and it’s via the senses that consumers evaluate whether what we marketers told them holds up — and earns that crucial repeat. But most marketers expend a lot of research time and money trying to understand what happens during Phase 3…the feeling stage.

That’s because it’s our emotions that ultimately dictate our feelings about a product, and where the potential of this technology comes into play. If, for example, our watch could read our feelings, then we could give it a glance not only to get the time but to tell us how much — or how little — we like a certain product.

To bring it to life, here are some scenarios to consider.

As you take your first bite at a new snack bar, you quickly scan the barcode on the wrapper as your trusty iWatch catalogs your basic positive physiological emotional response, cataloging the new bar against every other food you’ve eaten. You’re now clearly informed whether or not you like that food, versus the old fashioned way where emotions navigate a complex labyrinth from the subconscious to shopper behavior.

Imagine if this could be done in the innovation lab prior to launching that new bar. It would be an unprecedented level of confidence within the innovation development process.

Furthermore, imagine that your trusty iWatch “listens” to every second of your day. When your body signals an agitated state, the watch tells you that an individual with whom you have interacted is the likely cause, and suggests a product from your archive that has provided relief from that agitated state in the past.

Now imagine Mr. Zuckerberg and company are constantly evaluating all this emotions-driven empirical measurement data courtesy of our beloved apps, and helping provide the perfect solution exactly when it’s needed day or night — whether a product ad or a piece of digital content.

The fascinating question becomes, what happens when our iWatch “scoops” our own consciousness about the way we feel? Time will tell, but when I peruse the aisle and come upon a new deodorant offering, if my watch says “wow, you love it!” before it even registers in my mind, it’s sure to create a big leap forward in the shopping experience.

After all, they’ve already got the perfect brand all lined up — “coming Christmas 2015: the new iFeel.”