Influencer Marketing Case Study: Lay’s #SmileDekeDekho Ad Campaign

By Reez Ndukwe

Almost every young teenager has dreamt of been famous; of being an influencer. Some young ones have succeeded in becoming one and been the face of fashion brands, beauty brands, non-profit NGO outreach, YouTube ads, and TV commercials just like Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor. Those Indian influencer celebrities were featured in Lay’s #SmileDekeDekho video ad campaign.  It was viewed by millions of people worldwide on different devices in December of 2019. Since then, people still hum the song sometimes and gist about the vibe that hashtags brought in on Instagram, YouTube, and the online marketing space at large. It is still an invaluable influencer marketing case study that everyone can learn from. 

Influencer Marketing Case Study: Lay's #SmileDekeDekho Ad Campaign
Image: Hobo.Video

What Was The #SmileDekeDekho Campaign By Lay’s All About?

The Lay’s Smile Deke Dekho campaign is a fun marketing campaign that was considered one of the most successful ones to take place in the last month of 2019. It was so successful that the hosting brand, Lay’s, changed the packaging of their well-known potato chips. 


Lay’s is a brand name that deals with snack (potato chips) production worldwide but especially in India. The company was founded in the USA by launched and developed in India under the PepsiCo India conglomerate. They have been operational since 1995 and have served the Indian community with yummy snack products in different flavors. The “Magic Masala” is the main flavor sold in the country. 

For the ad campaign, Lay’s started to collaborate with an international NGO for children born with cleft lip and cleft palate under the name “Operation Smiles”. The initial aim of the campaign was to market Lay’s new products using a humanitarian form of marketing approach. They came up with this idea:  “Smile leads to connections and a pack of Lay’s can bring a smile to one’s face!” This idea of connecting everyone with a smile is congruent with the vision and mission the brand has been keeping to for two decades since their inception. The company’s management wanted a right hook with a just course that will align with the right product – their product. 

How Did It Start?

Lay’s subsequently hired two high-end PR agencies in India to find suitable influencers for this campaign. The agencies initially sent sample packets of the product to micro-influencers and mega influencers or celebrities like Kusha Kapila, Jannat Zubair, Parth Samthaan, Shikhar Dhawan. The packages were delivered with an external image of each person’s customized smiling chin and lower jaws. The concept for the marketing campaign was explained to them and most influencers were in on the plan.  The first trailer of the campaign was posted online to give an insight into what was to come on World Smile Day(Oct 4th).

In order to instill the message into the heart of viewers, Lay’s took the campaign to another level.  A special TV series for the “Smile Deke Dekho” campaign featured Bollywood actors Ranbir Kapoor & Aliaa Bhatt. The TVCs beckoned on the audience that a pack of LAY’S can build connections between people. Nevertheless, while Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt were the faces of #SmileDekoDekho, the brand worked with almost 750 influencers to bring #SmileDekoDekho to life.

How It Was Executed:

As aforementioned, the various influencers received their Lay’s packs with their customized smiles drawn on them. What followed was a big shout out by the brand ambassadors wherein the celebrities and influencers all sent personalized pictures of them posing with the chips package hanging down everyone’s smiling faces. Indeed, hundreds of influencers posed with their packages and included the hashtags #SmileDekeDekho and #SmilewithLAYS to their posts. It was instantaneous and sensational! 

The phenomenal vibe behind  #SmileDekeDekho was so contagious that people helped it go big-scale by sharing it with friends in a way that collectively created a cheerful bond online and offline. For every smile chips pack purchased, Lay’s will donate $0.01 to operation smile. Progressively it helped reach one million dollar donations to the operation. Meanwhile, the new Lay’s Smile bags were packaged to feature six different Smiles each carrying a particular flavor.

Campaign Results

After months of planning and strategizing, one should expect good results from this unique influencer marketing campaign. Now you can see a person smile on each flavor of Lay’s. The genius idea behind this campaign was what brought the massive success of the advert. The advertising campaign drove 8.2% overall engagements across platforms and sparked more than 100 million impressions. #SmileDekeDekho got more than 1300 social media features.

The official campaign song “smile deke dekho” released by Sony Music India and composed by Amit Trivedi. It was sung by popular Bollywood singers Sunidhi Chauhan and Nakash Aziz. Starring Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, the song has now reached over 126 million vies and over 256K likes! The Lay’s ad campaign made it a popular song choice on TikTok too.

Smile Deke Dekho - Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor | Amit Trivedi, Sunidhi  Chauhan, Nakash Aziz , Vayu - YouTube
Image: YouTube

It made nano and micro-influencers especially those on TikTok to increase their following dramatically. Their participation in #SmileDekeDekho made them go viral within a short time. People created memes over it. People posted selfie poses with smile bags to be a part of the #SmileDekeDekho. That influencer marketing ad campaign was viewed by millions of people worldwide on different devices in December of 2019. Since then, people still hum the song sometimes and gist about the vibe that the hashtag introduced on Instagram, YouTube, and the online marketing space at large.

Lessons Learned

Use hashtags or slogans that are super unique and catchy

Your influencer marketing must go with a slogan that is both simple, understandable by the local audience, and intriguing so that your brand stays memorable in people’s minds. Taking this case study as an example, anyone can read #SmileDekeDekho especially in the local vicinity of India. Hobo.Video has two blog articles that will give you tips to make your marketing message stick and linger on the mind of your listeners for the longest. 

The content of your ad must appeal to human emotion. 

The big brother company Pepsico has a record of doing successful marketing campaigns. So Lay’s borrowed a leave. #SmileDekeDekho influencer marketing ad was backed by a very touching emotional theme of “bringing a smile to someone’s face”. Had it been that the ad was featuring a “here is my product, buy from me!” attitude like is rampant in today’s online marketing space, the success rate will not have been phenomenal. Think of your prospect’s pain points, concerns, wants, and pleasures before you craft a marketing message.

Think outside the box, think differently

Part of the contributors to the absolute success of Lay’s #SmileDekeDekho ad campaign is the ability to think outside the traditional approach to matters of concern. The design idea of making drawings of smiling face cut-outs in every packet was a smart move. It made it possible for purchased potato chip bags to be used by anyone to put on a smile and participate in the trend during that time.  It was easy to share. All you need to do was select a pack of your favorite flavor, take a photo of you using the pack to form a smile and then post with the hashtag #SmileDekeDekho or #SmilewithLays. 

Make your product customizable by anyone and to anyone’s preference 

While this is hard, it is possible to do. In this case study, Lay’s sent limited edition packs to influencers and celebrities so that they can join the ad promotion if they wanted. It wasn’t hard for any celebrity to see the drawing of his smiling chin and lower jaw on the page bag and not join the campaign. Why is that? Because they knew their fans would love to have the unique experience of buying something that seems to be made especially for them as if it is their limited edition of the brand’s product.

For example, one of the most memorable ad campaigns of recent is that of Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign. Similar to the one discussed above, it revolved around Coke bottles with common local names inscribed on each of them. The hashtag #ShareACokeIndia was a global sensation! It featured more than 30 names in 12 local languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Telugu, Marathi and Malayalam. Another marketing campaign that made their product recommendable is KFC’s anti-hunger joint campaign with addHope program in 2019. And yet another recent case study of 2021 is the Sleepwell’s influencer marketing campaign in which you can read here.


The Lay’s #SmileDekeDekho ad campaign turned out to be a great success. It should be noted that ad campaigns work well when the intention behind them is genuine. In this case, it was to bring a smile to faces and to raise awareness and provide help to children with cleft lips. Marketing strategies depend on just this. Having a strong creative output for your intention or target groups.

A strong creative output is what appeals to the audience first. And if it makes an exceptionally great impact, then the sales of the products increase eventually.

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