Pepsi: Can a Soda Really Make the World a Better Place?
This year, PepsiCo did something that shocked the advertising world. After 23 straight years of running ads for its flagship brand on the Super Bowl, it announced that the number-two soft drink maker would be absent from the Big Game. But in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, Pepsi was still the second-most discussed advertiser associated with the event. It wasn’t so much what Pepsi wasn’t doing that created such a stir as much as what it was doing. Rather than continuing with the same old messages of the past, focusing on the youthful nature of the Pepsi Generation, and using the same old mass-media channels, Pepsi is taking a major gamble by breaking new ground with its advertising program. Its latest campaign, called Pepsi Refresh, represents a major departure from its old promotion efforts in two ways: (1) The message centers on a theme of social responsibility, and (2) the message is being delivered with a fat dose of social media. At the center of the campaign is the Pepsi Refresh Project. PepsiCo has committed to award $20 million in grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 to organizations and individuals with ideas that will make the world a better place. The refresheverything .com Web site greets visitors with the headline, “What do you care about?” PepsiCo accepts up to 1,000 proposals each month in each of six different areas: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education. Then crowdsourcing takes over, as consumers vote for their favorites. Pepsi awards the grants each month. One-third of the way through its one-year run, the company had funded more than 100 projects, giving approximately $5 million back to local communities. The company stated that the project was right on target to award the full $20 million by the end of the yearlong effort.
INTEGRATING DIGITAL THROUGHOUT THE PROMOTIONAL MIX
The Pepsi Refresh campaign has been a groundbreaking effort, in part because of its heavy use of social media. PepsiCo is capitalizing on a growing trend in a way that no other major brand has done so far. The company is quick to point out that Pepsi Refresh is not a social media add-on like almost others, where an ad simply directs people to a Web site for reasons that may or may not be relevant to the message. Nor is it a social media campaign as such, where the entire campaign takes place through social media. Rather, social media are the glue that holds together a truly integrated marketing communications effort. “It’s not about digital as its own channel anymore,” says Bonin Bough, director of digital and social media for PepsiCo. “It’s how do we infuse digital across all of our marketing programs?” For starters, although PepsiCo bypassed the Super Bowl, it is not ditching broadcast media. To the contrary, Pepsi is running spot ads on the main networks as well as 30 different cable channels. The ads initially informed people about the Pepsi Refresh campaign, directing them to the refresheverything.com site. But shortly after the first grants were awarded, ads began highlighting projects that had been funded. Traditional media efforts extend to 10 print publications as well. And PR
plays a role through agreements such as the one with NBC Universal for paid pitches on the “Today” show. But this campaign underscores a shift in how PepsiCo is spending its advertising dollars. According to CEO Indra Nooyi, the world’s number two soft drink seller is shifting as much as one-third of its marketing budget to interactive and social media. This move involves not only the Pepsi brand but also Mountain Dew, Doritos, Sobe, and PepsiCo’s other brands. Certainly, PepsiCo is not alone in the trend toward digital and social media marketing. But analysts point out that its approach, moving away from high-profile spots in favor of heavy spending on a digitally focused social responsibility campaign, is both...