Yes, Virginia, someone bought the $ 20,000 Cheetos jewelry set

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This holiday season, don’t be surprised to find your family cuddled by the light of a KFC chicken scented candle, wearing Burger King log sweaters and silver Taco Bell rings.

Fast food and CPG companies have released loads of this brand’s gag giveaways this holiday season. And so far, the public is eager to play the game.

When Frito-Lay’s Cheetos, together with creative agency The Marketing Arm, launched its first online merchandise store in November, the media widely treated it as a joke. But as Christmas approaches, almost everything from the $ 18.99 “Cheetau Perfume” (made from “the rarest Cheetos Cheese Oils”) to the $ 11.99 “Cheetos Color Bronzer” ( it’ll color you an orange hue) to, yes, the infamous $ 20,000 18k yellow gold ring and earring set is sold out.

“People love gag gifts,” said a spokesperson for Frito-Lay. “And it’s a fun way to promote our brand and improve our sales.” (Frito-Lay said only one game was produced. For privacy reasons, Frito-Lay declined to say who purchased it.)

Last week, Taco Bell had similar success with $ 25 metal rings that spelled out “Taco Bell” or “Live Mas.” The articles have gone viral thanks to passionate Instagrammers and have now been placed out of stock. The rings, which come in three colors, won’t be available until January 15, suggesting there will be some disappointed Taco Bell superfans on Christmas morning.

Partly a source of income, part of a publicity stunt, these articles help advertisers in struggling categories take advantage of the changing attitudes of many consumers towards their brands. Fast food and junky snacks may be out of step with American eating habits, but the brands themselves still have a low-key, country appeal that many consumers – perhaps the same ones who spend less on the products themselves. themselves – are eager to identify themselves.

“Food is more than just fuel,” said Jennifer Arnoldt, director of brand experience at Taco Bell. “It’s an experience, and you see a huge change in the way brands want to be a part of consumers’ lives.”

The fast food market in particular is motivated to find new ways to connect with consumers, said Bonnie Riggs, food analyst at NPD Group. “The market has become so fragmented that it has become very difficult for restaurateurs to drive sales and traffic,” she said. “These products are a reaction to that.”

From 2008 to 2016, foot traffic at American fast food restaurants had increased by about 1% per year, Riggs said. In the first two quarters of 2016 traffic was stable and in the third quarter of 2016 it decreased by 1%.

In November, KFC received a massive engagement in line with its chicken scented candle, largely from consumers wondering if it was real (it was, even if it wasn’t for sale). The planters worked with Leo Burnett to provide holiday sweaters for his boxes of nuts. In France, Burger King has partnered with retail site Rad.com to sell Christmas log sweaters, complete with pockets for smartphones.

Beyond the holidays, Taco Bell recently opened its first merchandise store in Las Vegas, where Tex-Mex lovers can find hot sauce napkins, rainbow-striped hoodies and bikinis adorned with taco images.

These brands may have been inspired by Pizza Hut’s online swag store that the fast food chain launched last year over the holidays. This could be especially true for Taco Bell and KFC, which, along with Pizza Hut, are part of Yum! Family of brands. The store featured wacky items like pepperoni-covered hats, a pizza-themed pillowcase, and a “pizza is bae” sweatshirt.

While these types of articles might make the internet laugh for a little while, they’re probably not very resilient, Riggs said. Only a certain crowd, she said, will be drawn to the wares that tickle the funny bone. “It seems like a challenge and a long plan to me,” she said. “Would you buy something so gimmicky and actually wear it?” “

Instead, those brands should take a page from Starbucks, a food brand that has seen huge success selling merchandise, Riggs said. The coffee chain has been releasing brand new tumblers every season and selling them online since 1998. But the brand doesn’t try to be funny; it’s fine for the class. “People don’t mind walking around with Starbucks cups,” Riggs said, “because it’s a status symbol.” Whether Starbucks could sell a $ 20,000 jewelry set remains to be seen.

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