Cannes Lions

Unleashing the Cheetle

KETCHUM, Los Angeles / FRITO LAY / 2020

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With popcorn already a well-established snack, we had to define Cheetos Popcorn by the distinctive characteristic it shares with Cheetos -- the orange dust that makes Cheetos Cheetos. Cheetos is famous for leaving its mark on your fingers, and Cheetos Popcorn would be the cheesiest and dustiest ever.

Despite having some of the most loyal and enthusiastic fans in the category, our target is still fickle when it comes to new products. So the brand turned to PR for a creative earned media strategy that would instantly make Cheetos Popcorn a new pop culture sensation and earn widespread national awareness, media coverage and social conversation ahead of any paid advertising. We set out to leverage the brand’s reputation for making fun and mischief.


We flipped a messy product attribute into a cool one by giving the dust that creates orange Cheetos fingers an official name: “Cheetle®.”

We realized there’s far more magic to “Cheetle” than just what you see. Having Cheetle on your fingertips gives you an excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do – like filing papers for your boss, holding a baby or moving a heavy white sofa. In fact, eating Cheetos allows you to skip out on just about everything.

And this epiphany led the brand to the perfect song to capture the secret power of Cheetos dust – MC Hammer’s iconic 1980’s hit, “U Can’t Touch This,” which was turning 30.


To launch Cheetle, first we trademarked the official name. Then we engaged media to get Cheetos Popcorn into the national conversation just as the product was hitting shelves. News, entertainment and lifestyle media helped fans instantly understand why having Cheetle® on their fingers was awesome – and we knew they’d eagerly spread the word across social media.

We premiered an entire Cheetos lover vocabulary and convinced to add the word Cheetle in multiple languages. Fans and the media ate it up.


Just as Cheetos Popcorn arrived in stores, we introduced Cheetle® as the official name of the orange dust.

We produced a “Cheetos Encyclopedia” of brand vocabulary containing samples of Cheetos Popcorn for the media -then secured a TODAY show exclusive to premiere the product and Cheetle name. Other major national broadcast and print media ran with the story.

To inspire even more consumer fun and conversation, we released a Snapchat filter enabling fans to put Cheetle® on their fingertips and launched a TikTok challenge inviting consumers to show their own mischievous Cheetle dodges.

As Cheetle stories and conversation lit up on social, the brand made the orange dust the narrative behind its new TV commercial on Cheetos Popcorn. We created digital teasers of artist MC Hammer crediting Cheetle as the inspiration behind his ‘80s hit song, U Can’t Touch This, and secured more media interviews on Cheetle with MC Hammer.


The organic combustion of national earned media coverage, fan conversation, nostalgic music and humor sold Cheetos Popcorn and immortalized the word “Cheetle®” in the pages of in 110 countries.

PR ingenuity and creative linguistics helped the brand achieve:

• 219% above planned revenue/sales goal

• 11.2 billion earned media impressions across 1,992 articles and an overall PR sentiment score of 99%

• 26.7K new social followers across Cheetos social channels

• A 41% increase in organic Twitter engagement, highest in brand history

• A 19.6% increase in recall of Cheetos Popcorn/Cheetle and 12.8% increase in awareness

• A 36% increased market share for Cheetos Popcorn on Amazon (Profitero)

• A rank of #1 in trial and #2 in repeat across Frito-Lay North America 2020 innovation products

But perhaps most impressive of all, half of all media coverage earned around the Cheetos Popcorn launch mentions Cheetle® — EVEN THOUGH THE BRAND’S AD DIDN’T.

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