pepsi refresh

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I was just reading about the new Pepsi Challenge. It will take place primarily in social media, using Usher, Serena Williams, other personalities and web denizens. From a strategy point of view the only thing I can glean is that the goal is to blend “social responsibility with social culture.” Forgive me but isn’t this “Pepsi Refresh” 4 years later? This time just with expensive spokespeople? Packaged using an old campaign line from twenty years ago?

It almost feels like they rushed the story to market half-baked to beat some Coke announcement or poor earnings report. The effort is going to cost millions globally and, no doubt, will do some good. It may even sell a few cases. But the whole campaign feels very social media bandwagon and derivative. More importantly, it’s non-endemic to the product. Something McDonalds could easily do.

I’m not feeling this marketing effort and suspect it will be nice window dressing for the Pepsi corporate offices and its ad agencies; as for taking a chunk out of Coke’s hide, not going to happen. What’s the Idea?

Peace.

PS. For WTI posts on Pepsi Refresh, click here. 

 

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PepsiCo is managing its broad portfolio and having issues. If you put all the brand managers from all the Pepsi brands (Frito Lay, fast food, etc.) into MetLife Stadium (referred to with a smile as “the snoop”), it might fill the lower level of seats.  With all those people gathering paychecks wouldn’t you think someone might come up with a new line of drink to help grow the soda business which is flat, flat, flat?

Water is done. Orange-flavored drinks done. Energy drinks done-ish. Teas still have some upside, but corporate knows putting the pedal down will cannibalize the sugar water business. So what’s next? Pepsi needs to be as innovative as the tech sector. It needs to travel the world for the next cool flavor. And let’s start with flavor before we delve into the nutritional benefits – which are very important but secondary if trying to grow the drink market.  Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi should empty the building in Purchase, NY and send people packing for 3 months – on global expeditions to find the next flavor. It’s out there, we just forgot to look.  Can you say cola nut?

I enjoy ranting about Pepsi Refresh.  What a mess!  What a lucky marketing tactic for Coke. Could Pepsi have selected anything more non-endemic to the brand?  The only thing endemic is the word refresh, which they stole from Coke. But ironically, they’re using the reboot definition.  Ms. Nooyi find a new flavor!  Don’t build us a playground.  Build us a new drink to grow the category. Peace!

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Someone posted a question yesterday on a forum asking if investing in social responsibility programs benefited brands.   The answer is yes. And in some cases no. It’s never a bad idea to do good. But doing good to mask or overshadow the bad a company does is not right.  I sit here typing in a tee shirt with the BP dandelion logo atop the line “We’re bringing oil to American shores.” BP is a joke. And long will be.

 

Dasani just announced a plastic bottle that is 30% plant based.  That’s 30% responsible and 30% good as it relates to biodegradability, but what we don’t know is if the process chews up more energy or emits more carbon.

Brand Meaning

As a brand advocate, I would answer the social responsibility question this way:  If the program is “brand meaningful” — if it makes a deposit in the brand bank — then it’s worth doing and celebrating. And supporting with paid media. If the program is not brand meaningful, say about child slavery, do it quietly and don’t feed the conversation. Just be proud to do Good’s work.

 

Brand Mask

The Pepsi Refresh project does good.  It impacts a lot of people who get access to funds.  But Pepsi could do a lot more to clean up itself environmentally and health-wise. Pepsi can do more good with a bigger purpose, footprint and impact than offering cheerleaders new uniforms or putting new bleachers on a little league field.  Is Pepsi Refresh masking? I prefer the Coca-Cola approach to social responsibility. They can do much more, but they don’t wear a mask. And they don’t try to build a sugar water movement around it. Peace!

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Here I go again about Pepsi Refresh.  Broken record,  I know. And please don’t think me a geeze for seemingly dis’ing media socialists and their heartfelt efforts to do good’s work on behalf of brands. (Liberal I am.)  But count the likes and clicks and friends and authenticity and opacity and, and, and in the soda category this week and two numbers stick out: Coke’s North American volume is up 3% and Pepsi’s is up 1%.  2 percentage points in market research may not seem like a lot, but in a billion dollar consumer business that some serious.  Especially in the much attacked sugar water marekt. Right Michelle?

Coke’s earning, announced this week, were kicking on all cylinders. First time in a long time. And Pepsi’s were down, overall.  No wonder Pepsi chief Indra K. Nooyi took a couple on the chin in the analysts call.   To be read in a whining voice “Commodity prices, really killed us. Considering the economy we did gre- ate.”  Well watch Mad Men.  Commodity prices have always been a problem for which one must be prepared.  Playing with pop marketing tactics, not well integrated into your core value prop or linked to an ersatz brand plank, do not a great earnings report make.  Head down. Sell soda. Peace!

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Pepsi ReFunk

Okay I could be tripping and correct me if I ‘m wrong, but wasn’t the Pepsi Refresh Project going to be funded by taking money normally put into Super Bowl ads and reallocated to well-meaning projects around the world.  You know – “Come on world, tell us how you want us to spend our money and we’ll refresh the planet!!!”

I’m all for doing good, or as I wrote in a strategy for Bailey’s Café in Bed-Stuy “doing good’s work”, but the whole Pepsi Refresh thing seems a little off.  Like a big advertising application in search of a product.  Anyway, I read today that Pepsi has a number of spots on the Super Bowl.  And the two most recent posts on the Pepsi Refresh Facebook page are from 17 hours ago and Tuesday.   

I “like” Pepsi’s refresh advertising, its intent and its lovely imagery, I’m just not so sure I want to vote for Pepis with my mouth.  (Drink it, that is.) Isn’t that the point?  And please, don’t tell me the category is mature and everyone knows what Pepsi is  – a similarly expressed sentiment, from earlier this week in a Tostitos article. 

Refresh should be moved to the corporate side of the business – kept alive and funded – but let’s refresh the strategy and move some cases. (The Coke people probably don’t agree.) Peace.

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Thank God Tostitos is Reuniting America.  Someone has to. Now, if they could only take on gun control.  Reunite America is the silliest, most well-intentioned, advertising idea I’ve heard in a long time.  I thought tossing or snapping Tostitos around the room and off the wall was silly, but this takes the tortilla.  And to read about the campaign (Goodby, you should be ashamed of yourself) in Stuart Elliott’s ad column today, it seems as if this is not so much a brand idea as it is a media strategy.  To wit (as reported in the New York Times):  

The goal of the campaign is to establish Tostitos as a brand that “brings
 people together through the power of technology” said Justin Lambeth,
vice president for marketing at Frit-Lay in Plano, TX. 

Is the technology the onion dip bowl?

Beside myself am I. My fingers have seized up with the thought of this campaign – well-meaning though it may be.  Tostitos is owned by the Frito-Lay unit of Pepsi, a company busy refreshing America.  So, at least we are in good marketing hands fellow countrymen.  Sugar water and salts snack….taking care of the motherland. Peace!

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