What’s the flavor, Kenneth?
So what’s the deal with flavors these days?
Things have changed over the years as flavors have become more, shall we say, plentiful and even creative. Even something as innocuous as those perennial goldfish crackers now come in nearly a dozen different flavors (cheddar, pizza, ranch, rainbow, graham, chocolate, cinnamon, honey, vanilla, s’mores......). But when the world is trained to expect so much choice and variance what comes next? Eventually, even a multitude of flavors just isn’t enough. What do you do when every brand has “ranch?” How do you differentiate your “ranch” from the other guy’s “ranch?” I’d say you need to add in some personality. Maybe even some attitude. Hello Mr. Dorito.
First released in 1968, Doritos originally came in Taco flavor, which I’m sure was very exotic and perhaps even ethnic-sounding back then but seems kinda somber today. 1972 saw “nacho cheese” introduced plus “sour cream and onion.” But the big deal was in 1986 with the presentation of “Cool Ranch” for the convenience store shelves. Still, they remained quite literal in their descriptions. Ranch is ranch, nacho cheese is nacho cheese. We needed to start getting crazy.
It took well into the new millennium before we saw “tastes” like the “Degree Burn” series of Doritos (blazin’ jalapeno, fiery buffalo, scorchin’ habanero). By then they even had a contest or two to name flavors (project X-13D) linking Doritos to foods you already knew and loved (Onion Rings n’ Ketchup, Buffalo Wings n’ Ranch, Salsa, etc). But when were they really gonna bring the crazy?
That would be 2012. And really, what could prepare someone for a tortilla chip flavor/style known as “Jacked?” What is “Jacked?” Well, I’m tempted to say it’s an attitude above all else but Frito-Lay describes the flavor as “bigger, bolder, thicker” and coming in such sub-flavors as smoky chipotle and enchilada supreme. But the sales pitch is not so much about the taste as the pure insanity their supposed awesomeness ties you into.
The commercial for Doritos “Jacked” chips is called "Joyride" and it features two guys eating the new Doritos label as they cruise around in a matte-black El Camino monster truck. The voice over begins: “New Doritos Jacked are big. Bigger than a giant El Camino on monster tires.” We are given just enough time to appreciate the vision that is a late seventies El Camino monster truck before they take off at top speed. The description continues. “And bolder than taking that behemoth and breaking Evel Knievel's bus jumping record by two and a half buses” at which time we actually watch this crazy stunt show take place – including the ridiculous half-bus placed at the end (Bonus points for the use of Evel Knievel, BTW). But we’re not done yet. “And they're crunchy. Crunchier than driving through a fine china shop that sells professional grade fireworks out of the back.” And true to the narrator’s word they roar through a genuine china shop absolutely destroying everything as an Independence Day’s worth of fireworks blasts off around them. All the time our doo-rag dunce driving the truck and his helmeted henchman are screaming and chomping and totally loving the slack-jawed chaos they are creating. Finally, the narrator closes us off with his apt sum up: “New Doritos Jacked. Tastes like awesome feels.” Yeah, I bloody guess it does.
The ad firm that made the ad for Doritos were tasked with pushing the narrative that the new Jacked chips were “big, bold and crispy” so they jammed as many over-the-top stunts as they could into one thirty-second ad. And they apparently did as many of the stunts as they could in-camera (meaning real vs. omni-present CGI). The result? Hillbilly teenage-boy perfection, if you ask me.
Look the commercial is mental. It’s fun and crazy and nuts and really demands to be watched every time it comes on. How can you not appreciate the sheer psycho destruction on display? But as a flavor designation? Honestly, as a way of saying “Man, I gotta get me some Doritos Jacked” it could not be more appropriate. Heck, even asking for the flavor at the store is more fun. How cool is it to ask for “spicy cheese, please?” Nerdling.
Obviously you can never try to anticipate what comes next in the world of consumer products. Stuff has gotta sell, and a new name is easier than inventing new stuff. Consider, is it really a bridge too far that some toothpaste brand might need to evolve beyond their simple “mint” or “berry” designation to get attention? I applaud Doritos for making the favor game way more fun and interesting. It just makes the overall shopping experience way more adventurous. I’m done with tepid tastes like “freshmint” or “cleanmint.” What the hell is freshmint anyway? Does it grow in Sweden? I vote for “White Sand Nuclear Testing White” or “Blinding Arctic Snowfield.” Actually, all kidding aside, I think I really would be willing to buy that.