“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue- to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.”

Those words of wisdom were given to us by the Greek philosopher Socrates more than two thousand years ago. Successful marketers have been subscribing to them ever since, as the world’s greatest brands have always been those that put the voice of the consumer at the center of their universe. Understanding consumers at every level is an essential ingredient for building strong global brands that are trusted and loved. It’s also a fundamental part of gaining unique insights that drive breakthrough innovation and create new market opportunities. At PepsiCo, it’s this unwavering focus on our consumers has allowed us to create 22 billion-dollar food and beverage brands.

Today, as a result of social media and the rise of mobile technology, the opportunities to listen to, and engage with, consumers have never been greater. Marketers can now go far beyond listening to what consumers are thinking. It’s a whole new world where we can invite consumers inside our companies to help drive new product innovation, create marketing campaigns and more. In many ways, consumers are now our partners who are helping to define the brands they love.

At PepsiCo, we’re at our best when we’re leveraging these opportunities to drive sales. Whether it’s something simple like inviting our consumers to use their mobile phones to send us a photo of their favorite Frito-Lay and Pepsi products together in exchange for free music downloads and others prizes – which we’re doing currently as part of our “Rock Your Summer” campaign to promote our biggest snack and beverage brands – or allowing consumers to help create future products and marketing, we believe bringing our consumers closer to our brands is central to our success.

As a result of our recent experiences, we have learned and are now implementing three absolutely invaluable lessons:

1. Leverage Your Consumer’s Passion

Consumers are passionate about brands they love and marketers are increasingly tapping into opportunities to engage and fuel that passion. Mountain Dew is a great example of a brand that exemplifies this trend. A few years ago, we launched DEWmocracy and invited our passionate Dew fans to pick the three new Mountain Dew flavors. They even selected the names, the package designs, the ad campaign and much more. Because the brand continuously engages with its fans, listens to what they have to say, and allows them to be part of the creative process, Mountain Dew is now PepsiCo’s second-largest beverage brand, the No. 1 flavored carbonated soft drink in the United States, and generates more than $5 billion in annual retail sales.

We took a similar approach on the marketing side with Doritos, launching Doritos 2012 Crash the Super Bowl ad contest, engaging fans to create Super Bowl winning advertisements. “Sling Baby” and “Man’s Best Friend” commercials that were created by Doritos fans took the top spot in the traditional USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter Ranking.

2. Invite Consumers In

Bringing consumers in as partners not only builds brand loyalty, it also helps drive new product creation and creative marketing.

We embrace this concept in our world’s largest brand, Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest that we are launching this week in the United States. Between July 20 and October 6, Frito-Lay fans nationwide are invited to tell us – via Facebook and mobile text – about their most satisfying and outrageous potato chip flavor ideas for a chance to win $1 million or one percent of the 2013 net sales of the winning flavor (whichever is higher – and we hope for everyone’s sake, it is much higher). The winning flavor will be announced in May 2013.

The contest in the U.S. is particularly exciting because of the growing acceptance of the mixing and matching of tastes. While traditional favorites are forever wonderful, people are also looking for the next new thing. We know that a country known for innovation, outrageousness and an incredible mix of traditions, cultures and backgrounds will produce a truly extraordinary new flavor.

3. Replicate Your Success

If you have a winning idea in one market, chances are it can be a winning idea is many other markets as well. “Do Us A Flavor” is a great example of a campaign that has been successfully applied to a variety of cultures around the globe in a way that remains locally relevant.

The “Do Us A Flavor” campaign first launched in the U.K. in 2008 and has since launched in several countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America—creating wonderful new flavors such as Thailand’s hot and spicy crab, Turkey’s haydari and India’s mastana mango. Judging from the success of these contests worldwide, we feel confident that the response will be incredibly enthusiastic here in the U.S. Consumers love to create new products and fervently support brands and companies that demonstrate they truly value their opinions. Moreover, everyone loves potato chips—each of us has a favorite taste that came from years of experimentation, and we all like contests with big prizes that reward our creativity.

Fundamentally, “Do Us A Flavor” is a classic campaign that is designed to build additional equity in the cherished Lay’s brand by communicating a deep respect for the best in local flavors and taste and sending a strong and compelling message that our fans will get exactly what they want in every bag and every chip. We have a long history in understanding tastes that vary from country to country, and are dedicated to partnering with our fans to create snacks that will thrill people in every market.

Socrates wasn’t a brand manager and never could have foreseen the rise of digital and social media, yet his advice has never been more relevant. With all the new technological tools at our disposal, marketers now have a far greater sense of what consumers want and how to provide it. It starts with being a good listener, and the rest will follow.