Pringles logo with spiders and chips hanging from webs [cover image]
Brand StrategySeptember 8, 2022

Everywhere The "Pringles Spider" Campaign Went Wrong

September 8, 2022
Cory Profile Picture
Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

Yes, you read that correctly — American snack food brand Pringles wants to officially rename a species of spider to the “Pringles Spider”, due to its seemingly uncanny resemblance to the brand’s iconic logo.

Currently, the arachnid in question goes by the name of the kidney garden spider — or, if you’re feeling scientific, the Araneus mitificus — and is a part of the orb weaver spider species. Their habitat includes many areas of Southeast Asia — from India to Japan to Australia — and they’re often found in gardens, bushes, and low vegetation.

Most importantly (for the purpose of this article), they had a distinctive pattern on their backs — one which some might say resembles a certain Mr. Julius Pringle. And instead of just crafting a funny tweet to mention the resemblance and move on, the Pringles marketing team had an even bigger idea: get the spider officially renamed and rebranded.

As fun as this story may seem, it does call attention to an increasingly popular scenario — one where companies are finding ways to insert their branded content into consumers' daily lives without them truly realizing it.

So, is getting a spider officially renamed taking branding a bit too far? And where did the campaign go wrong? Let’s discuss.

A Short History of the Pringles Brand

Source: Unsplash

Though it seems like a thoroughly modern brand, Pringles has been around for a while. Founded in 1968 and sold by P&G, it was originally marketed as “Pringle’s Newfangled Potato Chips” — and the chip itself was a feat of scientific research. In 1956, P&G tasked chemist Fredric J. Baur with creating a potato chip that addressed consumer complaints about traditional chips — greasy, stale, and easily breakable.

Baur spent the next two years developing the “saddle-shaped” chip from fried dough and was even the one who chose the brand’s iconic tubular can shape. If we’re getting technical, the Pringle chip is actually in the shape of what’s mathematically known as a hyperbolic paraboloid — which can also be found in famous architecture around the world.

However, as successful as Baur was with finding an inventive shape for the chip, he struggled to make it taste good — a fairly important piece in the puzzle. So, Baur was reassigned to another project and the chip was shelved for a few years. In the mid-60s, P&G assigned researcher Alexander Liepa to the task of improving upon Baur’s work, and he succeeded in making the chips tastier.

Along with the help of science fiction author and mechanical engineer Gene Wolfe, Pringles was able to develop a machine to cook these oddly-shaped chips. With all their ducks in a row, P&G began selling Pringles in Indiana in 1968.

By 1975, they were available across most of the contingent US, and by 1991 they were sold internationally. There is some debate on where the “Pringles” name came from — with some claiming it’s a nod to potato-processing-machine creator Mark Pringle and others saying it was derived from the street name of two P&G advertising employed (Pringle Drive).

The true origin is unknown, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from growing into a household name and finding success all over the world. And in 2012, the brand was officially sold to Kellogg’s, making it the second-largest snack company in the world.

So, let’s take a look at Pringles’ branding through the ages.

Pringles: Branding Through the Ages

It’s no secret that big-name brands like Pringles make the most of every branding opportunity — it’s one of the reasons they’re so successful. From its famous “Once you pop, you can’t stop” slogan to its catchy “Pringle Jingle”, the Pringles brand marketing team clearly knows what it’s doing.

Since its launch, many of the brand’s marketing efforts had centered around its comparison to traditional potato chips — drawing attention to Pringles’ stackable shape and fresh, unbroken status, thanks to the tubular can. Just consider the below print ad from the 70s, which calls attention to both of these points.

Source: Facebook

In the 80s, the brand released its famous “Pringle Jingle”, which featured a group of children singing happily (perhaps too happily?) about the chip’s “deep-friend taste” and “crispy crunch”.

From the late 90s to today, Pringles’ brand marketing has returned to making comparisons to other chip brands by calling attention to the broken, greasy state of the competitions’ products — and, thus, Pringles’ superior products.

The brand’s logo, perhaps its most iconic feature, is known as Mr. P. A stylized carton head with a luxurious mustache and middle-parted hair, Mr. P has seen many evolutions over the years — from his retro look from the 70s-80s to his current minimalistic makeover, as seen in the image below.

Source: Logos World

And with Mr. P’s, also known as Julius Pringle, new makeover has come a slightly new approach to marketing the brand.

Its most recent ad campaign introduced an entirely new slogan and concept — “Mind Popping” — along with ad creatives two years in the making. With the help of London-based advertising agency Grey, Pringles has refreshed its brand positioning, which was introduced via a multi-channel ad campaign in April 2022.

The idea this humorous ad explains is that “the world began with a big pop and that people grew opposable thumbs to open cans, have tongues perfectly shaped to hold saddle-shaped chips and grew taste buds to taste iconic Pringles flavours.” It’s a ridiculous concept — and one that fits into the “whimsical branding” category quite well.

This new “Mind Popping” theme that Pingles has chosen feeds into the idea that Pringles are somehow woven into the fabric of Mother Nature — that they were created before humans and are a natural part of our world. It’s a clever angle to take, as many of the brand’s critics have harped on the fact that the chip isn’t actually a chip, but a potato-based dough.

Therefore, creating a new campaign that positions Pringles as both natural and timeless was a smart move. However, Pringles’ latest brand marketing initiative may have taken it one step too far. Enter: The Pringles Spider.

Introducing: The Pringles Spider?

Source: Pringles

In late June, Pringles launched its official campaign to change the name of the kidney garden spider to the “Pringles Spider” — as seen above in a screenshot from the brand's website. The campaigns cites the pattern on the spider’s back’s uncanny resemblance to the brand’s logo as its reasoning.

At first glance, this seems like a fun and entertaining campaign. It’s a bit absurd and definitely humorous — but the brand is serious about its effort. There’s an official petition that fans can sign which will be sent to the International Society of Arachnology to have the spider’s name formally changed.

In a statement from Kellogg’s, the brand explains:

“One look at this incredible spider and it hits you – that spider looks just like the Pringles logo. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it – the slanted hairline, the beady eyes and even that signature ‘stache – the resemblance is uncanny”.

In the 90-second ad seen below, the brand claims that if they can get the name officially change, they’ll give out free Pringles. And consumers can even “adopt” their own virtual Pringles Spider via the “Adopt a Pringles® Spider Program”.

The kidney garden spider is being hyped as “the world’s first branded spider” — which, honestly, we’re not sure the world really needs. And don’t get us wrong, creative branding is great — finding innovative, inventive ways to connect with consumers and raise brand awareness is usually a win.

However, there are limits to what consumers will find fun and charming. They’re looking to support brands that stand for more than just profit. And while this “Pringles Spider” campaign has a lot of fun elements to it, it’s lacking real vision.

So, let’s discuss a few ways this campaign could be improved upon.

How To Improve The “Pringles Spider” Campaign

As creative as this campaign is, there are a few aspects that could be improved. Let’s start with the campaign’s mission (or lack thereof).

1. Empty Gestures Benefit No One

As much as we believe the world doesn’t need a branded spider, if it’s going to become a reality, then it needs to be more than an empty gesture.

Currently, the brand is hosting the “Adopt a Pringles® Spider Program”. Via this program, you can choose from one of six available kidney garden spiders to adopt seen below.

Source: "Adopt a Pringles® Spider Program"

From Samsom (a 1-week-old male) on the top left to Zadie (an 11-month-old female) on the bottom right, all you need to do is click “Adopt Zadie” and you’re presented with a certificate, seen below.

Source: "Adopt a Pringles® Spider Program"

It’s cute, sharable, and fun — but, in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing.

So, what if — instead of a meaningless digital certificate — when you adopted a Pringles Spider, the brand agreed to donate a certain amount of money to an organization that protected the spider’s habitat? Or to a non-profit that researched new ways that spiders can benefit medicine?

This way would undoubtedly be more expensive for Pringles, but it would show consumers that, as a brand, Pringles was invested in more than its own profits — that it wasn’t using the resemblance with a preexisting arachnid just to make more money, but also to protect this spider’s habitat and benefit humanity.

Modern consumers want brands to care about more than their own profits. According to data from Marketing Dive, “ 64% of consumers prefer to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit.” Furthermore, a study from market research firm Piplsay discovered that “58% of consumers say brand activism has impacted purchasing behavior or brand impression.”

Sure, Pringles isn’t a brand known for activism or purpose-driven campaigns. But this was the perfect opportunity for the brand to show consumers that it stood for something more than just making money.

The Takeaway: If your brand wants to launch a fun, wacky brand marketing campaign similar to that of the “Pringle Spider”, you’d be wise to ensure yours doesn’t come off as too self-serving or lacking in purpose.

Empty gestures that are aimed only at making a profit for your brand or increasing your awareness levels might come back to bite you if consumers catch on. Therefore, make sure a campaign of this nature offers real value beyond generating profit.

2. Reward Loyal Customers Without Complicated Conditions

Part of this campaign’s allure for customers is the chase to win free Pringles. Come on — who doesn’t like free chips?

But there’s a catch. The brand has announced that only if the kidney garden spider is recognized as the “Pringles Spider” by an official “arachnid organization” (which are listed in the Terms & Conditions) will the first 1,500 eligible participants who signed the petition receive an electronic coupon redeemable for one can of Pringles.

Of course, the brand has to ensure that a campaign like this doesn’t get out of hand — case in point, the petition has 7,377 signatures and counting at the time of publishing. If this number were to keep growing exponentially and the brand promised free chips to everyone who signed, Pringles might have ended up in some hot water.

However, signing the petition online, sharing it with friends, and even “adopting” a spider takes time and is likely the sign of a loyal (or at least motivated) customer. And thought the petition does cite the specific Terms & Conditions at the bottom of the page, most consumers won’t read that far down — meaning Pringles may end up with some unhappy customers in the future.

Pringles is a giant brand that’s owned and operated by an even bigger corporation, Kellogg’s. While sending e-coupons to all the petition's signees might end up costing the brand more than anticipated, it would be a gesture of goodwill to its customers that they’d definitely appreciate.

And, again, it would be a way for the brand to show consumers that it cares about more than just the bottom line — that it appreciates the support the signees have shown.

The Takeaway: When launching a campaign of this kind — one where you promise to provide loyal customers with a reward of some sort — it’s best to take a generous approach.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of thousands on rewards, but make sure the process of earning said reward doesn’t require consumers to jump through hoops only to come out the other side empty-handed.

Final Thoughts

Branded content isn’t a new concept — just look at all the sports and entertainment stadiums around the world with super catchy names like the Tony Macaroni Arena in Scotland or the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky. Companies have been finding inventive ways to expand their brand’s reach for decades.

So, while a “branded spider” is new to the mix, the concept isn’t. However, there are a few things that Pringles could improve upon to make this campaign more effective and better connect with modern consumers.

And if you want to run your own wacky branding campaign but aren’t sure what it is your target audience is looking for from your brand, then we recommend trying out brand monitoring software. With access to accurate, reliable consumer insights — including data on brand associations, purchase drivers, and more — you will be able to craft brand campaigns that resonate with your ideal customers.

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