Tastin' With The Tramps: Doritos Fire!

The distinguished members of TATTGOC sure do love their curry, as evidenced by their now-outdated title of Curry Lovers Of The Year 2010. But their ongoing quest for spicy satisfaction isn't merely limited to TATTGOC's regular excursions to some of Glasgow's hidden-gem curryhouses. If they happen across almost any curry-related foodstuff, Trampy and The Tramp feel compelled to take it for a spin – and thus was born the irregular feature Tastin' With The Tramps. After Trampy flew solo in the last instalment, the Tramps are back at full-strength, with some additional help from The Duke. So what spicy product is in the hot seat this time? Why, it's only newly-launched, aggressively-flavoured tortilla chip variant Dorito's Fire! Oaft!

(Click here to read on ...)

The Product: Of all the many foodstuffs featured in Tastin' With The Tramps, one towers above all others: potted noodles. But there's also been a lot of crisps, including McCoy's, Golden Wonder and the unusually flavourful Anita's Chips. In fact, Lady Gaga fans might whimsically call it an ongoing "bag romance" (there's some super-hot Seabrooks in the pipeline too). So as the nation's palate gravitates towards spicier offerings, it's perhaps not surprising that the most popular tortilla chip brand should try and make some in-roads too. Doritos already had a "Chilli Heatwave" flavour out there, but now they've gone full-bore flamin' with Doritos Fire ... their hottest chip yet, thanks to the awesome power of jalapenos. But how best to introduce it to the public?

The Pitch: It's not easy carving out shelf space in the competitive snack market. And mass marketing campaigns are mighty expensive, so Doritos cannily split the cost of launching Doritos Fire – presumably in half – by teaming up with Pepsi, who were launching a new Pepsi Max Citrus Freeze flavour. Fire ... and ice! A match made in synergy marketing heaven! And one that lends itself to a highly elaborate advertising campaign, based around newly-minted superheroes Firefingers and Icefist. This TV spot will give you the "gist":

Confession time: way before all of this started, Doritos – or at least an energetic, self-aware marketing company acting on behalf of Doritos – got in touch with TATTGOC with advance warning of the campaign, and followed up by sending over a superhero crate containing bags of Doritos Fire, bottles of Pepsi Max Citrus Freeze, some "invisibility glasses" and a DVD of Mark Millar's homebrew superhero movie Kick-Ass. (There was also an additional special item enclosed.)

The Burn Identity ... Jack Scoville IS Firefingers!
So far, so pandering-attempt-to-get-influential-bloggers-on-board. But while this sort of buzz marketing tends to be at best cynical and at worst cack-handed, the Firefingers and Icefist campaign manages to be slick and goofy at the same time. TATTGOC's normally rigid anti-PR armour cracked just a little when they first realised Firefingers' doughy civilian alter-ego was called Jack Scoville, a nod to the famous piquance scale.

Apologies to non-comics fans, but we're going to go quite deep into superhero stuff for a second. One of the key parts of the campaign is a two-part motion comic, introducing the elemental brace of heroes. And, astonishingly, it's better than Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's much-ballyhooed Spider-Woman motion comic, which was Marvel's first proper attempt at the form. Sure, it's a marketing tool, but it's been put together with enough humour (notably a secretary-turned-supervillain called Holepunch who insists you remain stationary) and respect for the form (the duo's pokey "Shedquarters" has an interactive cutaway drawing, just like Jack Kirby's Baxter Building in Fantastic Four issue six). And it's actually pretty subversive, since the overarching threat is – SPOILER ALERT! – a pop star trying to brainwash the world with cloying music. Considering how often Pepsi have used zeitgeisty musicians to punt their own sugary pop, the comic is almost seditious. As well as delicious.

(For non-comic geeks, there's also a competition to win trips to Vegas and Iceland, and an app to "superhero" yourself. It appears to be working, with around 3500 "talking about" Doritos on Facebook, whatever that actually means.)

The Packaging: Enough marketing jibber-jabber! What does it actually look like? We're not sure how "black background with red or white writing" became the retail shorthand for fiery products, but that's the situation we find ourselves in, with prominent examples being Mr Singh's Bangras and the Bombay Bad Boy. But Doritos Fire at least does it with some panache, evoking the vibe of a 1980s action movie with a proper ouchey-ouchey-burny-burny-lickin'-flames logo.

So. An elaborate pitch, a hot product ... what did the Tramps and guest taster The Duke think?

Trampy Says: "I don't usually buy Doritos because they are so heavily flavoured that they totally overpower whatever meal I'm using them as the vegetable for. Even Findus Crispy Pancakes struggle to compete with Tangy Cheese Doritos on the side, amirite? These ones are on a whole new level, though ... a striking, slightly undefinable first taste followed by a proper, lingering heat. It's a sensation I'm unfamiliar with, and the first instinct is to ram in some more Doritos just to see what will happen. I'm sneakily impressed they've brought such an extreme product to market. And I salute all the superhero stuff. Well done."

The Tramp says: "I'm not a huge fan of tortilla chips, and if I do get them I tend to just get plain ones. But these are good, with a noticeable heat and nice lingering taste. And they are quite moreish, I've been back to the bowl a few times. I'm almost tempted to try them with the Pepsi Max Citrus Freeze to see if they really go together, it's such a strong taste it would be interesting to see what actually does go with it. And obviously we're going through a boom time for superheroes, so all the marketing stuff is a good idea, a wise thing to jump onto. My final thoughts are: fiery."

The Duke says: "They were surprisingly reminiscent of Pickled Onion Monster Munch in the first instance, which I didn't expect. And they're actually hot. There are far too many crisps these days that are tangy but not genuinely hot. These ones have a good strong, long afterburn. Lightly Salted are usually my Doritos of choice but these are pretty good. I would buy them again."

The Verdict: Whilst all three panellists were puzzled by the Monster Munchiness of the first bite (which then became a burny aftertaste) there was a general thumbs-up for Doritos Fire. For if you are obliged to have a big bag of social snacks that everyone can share, why not get a brand with a bit more kick to it?

Oh yeah, that "special item" in the superhero crate? It was a hand-drawn illustration of the Tramps in their self-suggested superhero guise "The Vinda-Two' ... and we think it looks pretty awesome. Check out the fire whip! And those determined expressions! Beautiful, beautiful work that captures the essence of our blog. Contracted, necessarily anonymous artist ... TATTGOC salutes you.

Do you have a curry-related foodstuff you're launching into the crowded modern marketplace where a recommendation from appropriate enthusiasts might help? If so, drop us an introductory line at trampyandthetramp@trampyandthetramp.com and see YOUR product featured on ... Tastin' With The Tramps!

Chilli Papas Spice Mixes!
Fiery Irn-Bru!
Mongoose, Aboot The Hoose!
Waitrose Hot And Fiery Salad!
Anita's Chips!
The Pot Noodle GTi! 
Mr Singh's Curry Pies!
The Pot Noodle Fightback!
Mr Singh's Punjabi Chilli Sauce!
McCoy's Vs Golden Wonder!
The Nation's Noodle!
Mr Singh's Bangras!