Vagina chips, we need to talk

King Kong's Sabri Suby discusses 'attention' as today's ad currency - but what are the limits? As Facebook ad costs sky rocket and ways of measuring ROI become increasingly difficult, to what extent should creative marketing teams be leaning into the attention ball-pit, and how far is too far?

Earlier this month, Lithuanian snack brand CHAZZ jumped onto a statistic that millennials are not having sex, using that insight to create a new range of vagina-flavoured chips.

No, I’m not joking. 

There are two ways to look at this situation. One: we’re sitting here talking about it. CHAZZ has broken out of obscurity and made its way into the pages of a well-known marketing publication all the way over in Australia. 

The other way to look at it is: what is CHAZZ going to do with that attention? If they don’t have an economic model in place to capture and monetise that attention, it’s a worthless exercise and potentially damaging to anything they do from this point. 

Brands need more than a quick laugh to last. Sure, CHAZZ might get a short-term spike in sales and eyeballs, but what’s left once the laughter dies, and the eyeballs quickly go elsewhere? What is the long-term plan? A penis-flavoured chip? Who are CHAZZ trying to market their chips to, and who would buy them consistently? 

This is a problem that goes beyond vagina chips. Bad attempts at viral marketing campaigns are becoming increasingly popular as Facebook ad costs skyrocket, and ways of measuring ROI for marketers become more and more difficult. 

Every time a brand launches a stupid product, launches an April Fools’ prank, or attempts to court the media with an outrageous product, they’re putting risk before reward.

Think of attention as the new ad currency. You’re paying for traffic, eyes on your products. 

People spend attention with their time, before they pay with their money. If you sell them a joke, and it’s not even that funny, what value is your customer really getting in exchange? 

Joke products are the product equivalent of a clickbait article. Customers can’t help but click –  you see ‘vagina chips’, you have to scratch the itch and click. (Why did you click on this article in the first place?) 

But if that click, or product, doesn’t live up to the hype that its title implies, then you’re more likely to turn your customer off than leave them wanting more. 

Brands can and should joke around with their customers. But the key is to always tie it back to your overall brand and to build customer loyalty in the process. Who is CHAZZ selling these sex chips to? Its 18-year-old core customer who wants to play a prank on their mates, the parent who is doing the weekly lap around the supermarket? 

Once this brand has successfully attracted the attention of new eyes (we clicked on it, right?) are we then going to be enticed to purchase other products that they stock? Probably not. 

It is possible to get humour right. KFC gave us the perfect example of tying humour into its brand back in 2018, when a chicken shortage forced the chain to close more than half of its 900 UK restaurants. The brand responded by taking out full-page advertisements to apologise for the shortage, with an empty bucket reading ‘FCK’, and ‘we’re sorry’ underneath. 

KFC was crude, it made a joke, and you could argue that the ad was a gimmick. But it won people over because a. it was actually funny, and b. It made sense for the KFC brand. 

Luxury handbag manufacturer Anya Hindmarch recently launched a bizarre series of ice creams in ketchup, salad cream, and baked beans flavours. Did this work? Yes, because Hindmarch has a history of quirky ‘add on’ activities to her core product offering. Hindmarch’s customers know and expect that her pranks are nothing but pranks, and said pranks do not interrupt or deter from what she is known and trusted for, they are mere examples of the brand’s creativity, outside of the norm.  

Unless you can tie your marketing gimmick back into your brand strategy, it’s never going to win customers over in the long term. 

So, the next time you have that next big ‘viral’ idea, stop and think. Is it FCK? Or is it just a big old pile of vagina chips?


Sabri Suby, founder and head of growth at King Kong


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