Flavor Meets Fashion: Merch Mania Strikes Food Marketing Creative


Last quarter’s creative review called out a burgeoning food and beverage marketing trend centering on fashion merchandise tie-ins among brands including McDonald’s, Heinz, Goldfish Crackers, and more. Since then, the use of the tactic has increased dramatically with CPG brands including Sunny D and Vita Coco, Commodities like Avocados from Mexico, and QSR chains from Chipotle to Arby’s to Popeye’s jumping on the bandwagon. 

Meanwhile, the use of nostalgia in food advertising has also continued to trend. And with the Super Bowl quickly approaching, gameday food brands from chips to dips are gearing up to make a multi-million dollar impression in conjunction with the event. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get to it.

Wearable Branding

What’s behind the recent move of seemingly nearly every food brand toward branded clothing e-tail? According to brand managers, it’s a powerful way to create a connection with younger consumers who disdain traditional advertising. In addition, with so many social, video and gaming streams to choose from, it can be difficult to get noticed in the digital arena. So brands are moving to IRL to create community among loyal young users, often in a self-aware, hip and ironic way. Here are a few products taking full advantage of the current brand merchandise phenomenon.

Pizza Hut – Tastewear

In Pizza Hut’s latest campaign, comedian spokesperson Craig Robinson sports a cheesy brand-themed red tracksuit. When consumers began asking where they could buy one, Pizza Hut created a casual “Tastewear” collection available for purchase via e-commerce. You can get your own slick and silky suit, branded gold chains, slides and more.

El Pollo Loco – Loco Gifts and Gear

El Pollo Loco has launched “Loco Gifts and Gear,” celebrating the brand’s cultural heritage. Designed by three renowned Latino creators, the line includes trucker hats, board shorts and even skateboards and a lowrider bike.

Avocados From Mexico – Avocado Glow Apparel

As an agricultural commodity organization, AFM is prohibited from creating ancillary monetized programs. So for their newly-created “Avocado Glow” apparel line, the brand created a loyalty program to reward their frequent purchasers and website users for free.

Popeyes – Megan Thee Stallion Animegan Line

In the same vein as McDonald’s collaboration with Saweetie and other artists, Popeye’s has partnered with Megan Thee Stallion for not one but three merch lines. The second collection, “Animegan,” is inspired by the star’s love of anime. The collection includes streetwear items including T-shirts, hoodies, tote bags and bandanas inspired by Megan’s unique style. To support the line, Popeye’s has also produced an elaborate anime-styled commercial starring Thee Stallion.

Other brand loyalty merch items designed for playful consumer self-expression include Arby’s meat-sandwich-inspired Aloha shirt and shorts, Vita-Coco’s fun and funky Bucket Hat, and Sunny D’s ubiquitous orange hoodies.

Nostalgia-Themed Marketing Trends 

Oreo Cakesters – The Last Blockbuster Takeover

Continuing the nostalgia-themed marketing trend identified last quarter, Oreo Cakesters have relaunched after ending production in the aughts. To promote the comeback, Oreo is “rewinding” time by taking over another 2000’s favorite, the world’s last existing Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon. 

The storefront sports a co-branded marquee, Cakesters-themed movie posters, and free samples of Cakesters in retro VHS boxed packaging. In the stressful era of Covid, nostalgia has become popular with consumers as a means of recreating more carefree experiences of their youth. Other brands also jumping on the trend include Pepsi, with a return of clear Crystal Pepsi from the 90’s (“Show Us Your 90’s), and the rebirth of Dunkaroo’s (“Your Favorite 90’s Snack”).

Annual Super Bowl of Food Ads

The big game is always a stage for . . . 

Frito-Lay – Super Bowl 56

With the annual NFL Super Bowl also serving as the Super Bowl of snack food advertising, Frito-Lay’s Cheetos, Doritos and Lay’s will all be participating. Like Popeye’s, Cheetos and Doritos have enlisted Grammy-winner Megan Thee Stallion as their brand ambassador.

A new spot for Cheetos and Doritos shows the artist arriving at the stadium and being questioned about an odd variety of allergies, teasing the content of the commercial to air during the Big Game. Meanwhile, Lay’s is promoting its gameday spot featuring a line of chips called Golden Grounds.

The chips are made from potatoes grown in soil taken from each NFL team’s actual football field. NFL legend Jerry Rice has been tapped to introduce the promotional chips, whose packaging is designed with the logos and colors of the respective teams.

Avocados From Mexico – House of Goodness

Avocados from Mexico is hoping consumers will dip their Frito-Lay chips into their guacamole on gameday, the biggest sales day of the year for avocados. But its campaign is more than just another Super Bowl commercial. It’s a fully immersive 360 integrated campaign hosted by former NFL quarterback Drew Brees, who welcomes us into AFM’s virtual “House of Goodness”. 

The digital home contains several rooms that consumers can navigate through and interact with, including taking a selfie with Brees, uncovering recipes and purchasing avocados online. A pop-up version of the House will also be available to visit IRL for a limited time in Soho, New York, where the Avocado Glow clothing collection described earlier will also be displayed.

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EHY Edit Team