PopChips: Turning Loyal Customers Into Cult-Like Snack Food Following

If you’re wondering how to build a cult-like following for your product, take some lessons from snack company Popchips. In this case, a small amount of free stuff went a very, very long way.

Karen wrote a quick e-mail to the company about how much she liked their product, expecting at most perhaps a coupon or two.

Recently I wrote into popchips, a new brand of potato chips I had the joy of trying several months ago. It was a simple letter, just saying thanks and how much I enjoyed their product. Within hours I got a personal response from the CEO, not only thanking me for my letter, but also offering to arrange an in person meeting with their NYC marketing manager so we could discuss any ideas I might have. As someone who was hoping for a coupon, I was flabbergasted. I just got out of meeting with Whitney, the marketing manager, who presented me with a huge box full of popchips bags and graciously offered to provide snacks and supplies to a weekly pub trivia night I host. And all I did was write a fan letter To say popchips knows how to care for their customers is an understatement. I just wanted to share with the world how wonderfully happy this company has made me.

Perhaps this attention was because Karen happens to live in New York, or that was just one heck of a fan e-mail she sent. Either way, that’s how you turn happy customers into lots and lots of free publicity.

Comments

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  1. edwardso says:

    And they are damn good too

    • formatc says:

      @edwardso: That they are. I’ve tried barbecue and salt/pepper, both were good. The salt/pepper was downright spicy, which is always welcome in my book.

  2. shepd says:

    One suggestion : KETCHUP CHIPS.

    That is all.

  3. ThinkerTDM says:

    “Never fried, never baked”? Are they raw? Sun dried? I’m going to have to buy some to find out!

  4. Joshua Willis says:

    Always very cool to see a company that “gets it”.

  5. Brain.wav says:

    I’ll have to give them a go if I see them… If a company’s willing to go that far for a fan they deserve some support.

  6. kaceetheconsumer says:

    It’s working because now I’m curious about the product too. Plus, knowing that they were good to a customer makes me more prone to trying them even if they’re slightly more expensive.

  7. Erica Manney says:

    I was going to try them today, but passed. Seeing this? I will pick them up on the way home.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I almost bought a bag today but opted for something healthier…now I want to see what the hype is about.

    • henwy says:

      @pecan 3.14159265:

      Frankly, I wouldn’t trust a company like this. It makes me wonder what sort of mickey-mouse outfit is it that their CEO has the time to do something like this. Maybe their quality control officer is equally lax and busy playing mafia wars on facebook.

      • xkevin says:

        @henwy: Are you being serious? Small companies trying to expand their brand and market typically have hands-on executive management.

        • henwy says:

          @xkevin: Small companies? I guess we have different standards. I figure once you hit 6 million in sales you can’t really call yourself a mom and pop organization. And I’m totally serious when it comes to finding it disturbing that their CEO is answering emails. Unless of course they simply have a dozen customer service staff answering the mail and just put his name at the bottom of it to make it seem like he’s engaged with the public. That would actually be pretty slick. But if he’s got notta better to do with his time than respond to each and every email the company receives…that’s sorta screwy.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @henwy: Wow, you’re quite the negative nelly, aren’t you?
        So, who’s a more shining example of snack-food customer-focused goodness?

        • henwy says:

          @Trai_Dep:

          Most of them are fine with me. I don’t expect much out of the companies. As long as the food tastes good, I don’t end up getting sick or dying from it, and it’s not too overpriced. That’s all I want.

  9. davere says:

    I found Popchips at my local store, never having heard of them, I picked them up, checked the nutrition label and I was surprised by how healthy they were (considering what they are.) I bought a bag and I was blown away by how good they are.

    While on a chip high, I went to their site and sent them a short fan email not expecting anything in return other than a “thanks!” email. To my surprise I also got a personalized reply a couple of hours later asking me for my address to send me some coupons.

    I replied with my address and a few days later I received several coupons for free bags, and more impressive, a handwritten note commenting on a couple personal details I had added on the email.

    This company not only gets it, but their product is truly great.

  10. ExtraCelestial says:

    I don’t even like potato chips but I’m definitely going to check these out on my way home today.

  11. Steve Phillips says:

    Hearing about this makes me want to try these chips. Like others have commented – this kind of word of mouth advertising is easily worth the cost of the chips they are providing to Karen.

  12. Jim Topoleski says:

    … I think I might have to try this product. I have never heard of such a thing.

  13. nakedscience says:

    HELLS YEAH. They sell them at the big box company I work for (I don’t work the retail side). 20% employee discount here I coooooome lol.

    I have to go to the store today anyway. I shall be picking up some Popchips!

  14. Smashville says:

    Add me to the people who have been hypnotized by good service into contributing at least one purchase to their bottom line.

  15. Kos says:

    They gave some of these away for free at the NY 5 Borough Bike ride. I was very impressed.

  16. Rick Silver says:

    I used to adore Cape Cod jalepeno cheddar chips, which they discontinued. I wrote a letter asking if they were discontinued, and they sent a letter back saying they weren’t discontinued with a 50 cent coupon. That’s an example of how not to foster loyalty.

  17. Chazon says:

    If anyone needs these, it’s us down here in the deep south, but alas no one has them here in Mobile, AL :(

  18. Canino says:

    I might try them if I come across them, but they look to be kind of expensive. Amazon price is over $2 for a big ol’ whopping 3 oz. bag (when you buy 12 bags).

    • smileboot says:

      They need @Canino: nearly $3 a bag if you buy em in the grocery store.

    • nakedscience says:

      @Canino: I wonder if they have large bags that are more reasonable? I know a lot of small bags of chips are 99cents so $2 doesn’t seem unreasonable for bad ass chips.

  19. nakedscience says:

    You know, they are like the Zappos of the chip world…

  20. chucklebuck says:

    These are goooooooooood eatin’ (at least the BBBQ flavor is, haven’t seen the others at my local Target).

  21. NotYou007 says:

    Now I gotta run to Target to see if I can find some.

  22. ilovemom says:

    How long before Coke or Pepsi buys them and screws it all up?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Hi all,
    This is Karen, the OP, and I just wanted to thank Consumerist and all you guys for your interest. As a jaded salty snack lover, popchips and their customer service have been incredible. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I have!

  24. hewhoroams says:

    and their Idea worked because it made this site and now i’m going to try some.

    Brilliant!

  25. mrmcd says:

    They are also very delicious, and a whole big bag is only 360 calories.

    nom nom nom.

  26. tinmanx says:

    They were at this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour, I tried every flavor, and must say it’s all pretty good.

  27. knyghtryda says:

    Marketing… you’re doing it right :)

  28. JonThomasDesigns says:

    They sell them at Wholefoods out here in MA.

  29. starrion says:

    Impressive. The marketing-Fu is strong with this one.

    I have never heard of them. Now I have and have a “positive” brand image.

    The only other brand that I have heard doing something like this is Baconsalt.

  30. MarvinwasaLunatic says:

    I will stick to making my own, thank you very much.

  31. slopirate says:

    I’ve been getting the Parmesan Garlic flavor for a few months. Excellent chips.

  32. twophrasebark says:

    I would like to comment, being the owner of Bland & Oily Chips‚Ñ¢.

    Our customers have indicated that they prefer bland automated responses to emails written to our company. We know this because we never hear from them again.

    We also have pride ourselves on our committment to helping the current economic climate by making our bags larger, but with less chips.

    Finally, a real potato chip is oily and tastes like it was made with low-grade potatoes produced by massive agricultural corporations that receive large subsidies from the government.

    As the CEO of Bland & Oily Chips‚Ñ¢, I urge you to not patronize Popchips.

    John Bland

  33. ovalseven says:

    I once wrote a message to Icee telling them how much I liked their drinks, and how I thought their website was cooler than the one 7-11 set up for the Slurpee. Their feedback form asked for my address.

    A week later a box arrived at my home with all sorts of free Icee merchandise. I was impressed.

  34. realserendipity says:

    My husband picks these up yesterday at costco but we hadnt tried them yet. Guess Ill have to pop them open during the Wings game and enjoy with my Dublin Dr Pepper(just found of a local source of this cane sugar soda goodness)

  35. ophmarketing says:

    Trader Joe’s has their own version of these–identical to PopChips in every way. They have regular and barbeque style, and they’re only $1.99 for a pretty good sized bag (i.e. four or five generous servings).

  36. Yogambo says:

    Imagine what’s going to happen now that you published this letter. They’ll likely pay for her children’s higher education, fly her ’round the world, and fund her first start-up.

  37. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    They sound yummy. Next time I run across them, I’ll try a bag.

    [www.popchips.com]

  38. xcharliemx says:

    Way too interesting. Sent them an email about this thread and added them in FBook and found out someone already sent it to them.

  39. Sian says:

    I liked the free pop chips at the 4th of july thing I went to last year, but I never see them at the store for less than ‘way too fricking much for potatoes and air’.

  40. psm321 says:

    So I decided to visit their website to see what it was all about (the never baked/fried aspect intrigued me). Really annoying sound on the webpage that plays automatically on load is not a good way to impress me.

  41. TeraGram says:

    Popchips are expensive but they’re worth it. When I was suffering from gall-bladder disease they were the only chips I could eat that wouldn’t make me horribly sick.

    AND they’re tasty.

    Win-Win!

  42. allstarecho says:

    Sort of the same thing happened to be with Cousin Willie’s Popcorn. I didn’t get a meeting with anyone but did get 10 free boxes of their popcorn.. which is the best ever.. their Buttery Explosion kind. Everyone I have turned on to it, won’t buy anything else now… from my Uncle to the cashier at the grocery store. Cousin Willie’s Buttery Explosion. And no, I don’t work for them, but I wished I did.

  43. HogwartsAlum says:

    Waaah haah haah haah haaaaaah!!! :’O

    I can’t buy them in here in Stupidville! I have to go on Amazon!

    Figures.

  44. Skater009 says:

    NICE Job ?

  45. Sam Oldenburg says:

    Clearly the company is looking to expand it’s image.

    Stuff like this helps.

  46. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    What’s the big deal? Hundreds of companies give you samples or free coupons if you take the time to actually write them a letter.

  47. pollyannacowgirl says:

    Okay, I just bought some at my health food store. $1.29 for a .3 oz bag.

    Meh.

    The BBQ flavor tastes more than a little synthetic. So does the salt and pepper flavor. My mouth hurts.

    I’d rather eat an Utz potato chip.

  48. barb95 says:

    They are too salty for me. Great customer service thought, might just make me buy some for my summer bbqs.

  49. Black-Cat says:

    It’s great to hear about a company that actually likes it’s customers…unlike Apple.

  50. Haggie1 says:

    Karen is probably a hottie. I doubt “Steve” sending the same email would get the same response.

    Nothing improves customer service like a nice rack…

  51. Dan Seitz says:

    Wow. If that’s how they treat their customers, I’ll throw them a buck just out of curiosity!

  52. locura79 says:

    FYI, I found big bags of Barbecue Popchips at my Costco in Austin. It’s my favorite flavor so I was very excited!