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Unpacking The "Pepsi 25" Social Media Rebranding Campaign

By now you may have seen some posts from several social media influencers (Peter Shankman, Chris Brogan, PSFK, Jason Falls among others) in the marketing and advertising field about Pepsi’s innovative new campaign being dubbed by many the "Pepsi 25" for their choice of 25 bloggers to single out and send three packages over the course of an hour. Since I don’t have my camera at work with me today, I’m going to gratuitously grab the image Steve posted on Adrants (another of the 25 chosen blogs) with full credit back to him of course:

Pepsi_packaging_110_years

I was one of the Pepsi 25, but unfortunately didn’t get the boxes until making it back to the office today after some prolonged international travel. But being a bit late to share my experience actually gives me the benefit of some hindsight about the campaign, and seeing what many of my fellow bloggers had to say it. So far, the discussion about this strategy has landed on three main points:

  1. The new logo looks a lot like Obama’s logo (though presumably it was in progress before Barack Obama came up with his logo).
  2. Speculation about who these 25 influencers are that Pepsi chose, and how they chose them.
  3. Observations that this campaign won’t necessarily get any of the bloggers to like or drink Pepsi any more.

Imb_newpepsican I would argue that this is a very well executed campaign for one simple strategic reason that ironically some of my fellow marketing bloggers are missing … the point of sending these cans to the 25 bloggers was not to get them to start drinking or liking Pepsi. It was presumably to get them to write about Pepsi’s new brand to generate awareness and coverage within the marketing industry. Going by the compiled list of participants on Darryl Parker’s site who have written about it (and including this post you are currently reading), their hit rate is 15 out of 25 bloggers so far who have posted about it.

Though some, like Mack’s post couldn’t possibly be called positive coverage since he doesn’t mention the brand and didn’t have that positive of an experience, the follow on effect of other bloggers talking about the campaign would have to be judged a success. The choice to make it exclusive, the undeniable marketing story of seeing the 100 year brand logo evolution of one of the largest brands in the world on a series of cans (which most marketing bloggers would care about on some level), and the generally positively reviewed new logo means that Pepsi will probably get exactly what they wanted from this campaign … for a handful of marketing bloggers who collectively reach a large percentage of the marketing community to all be talking about Pepsi’s new logo.

More importantly, many of whom (like me) who have never posted about Pepsi before now have a reason to. They are trying to keep the dialogue going in a community on Friendfeed called the Pepsi Cooler – and though I agree with some of my fellow bloggers that this campaign alone may not offer me a reason to continue talking about Pepsi beyond this one launch, on some level if I were Pepsi I would look at this effort and call it a successful experiment in engaging bloggers and hope to see many more such efforts from the brand.

  • http://www.emersondirect.wordpress.com Marc Meyer

    I don’t know Rohit, I just think that Pepsi got the wrong people talking about the brand. Though it is interesting to see that WE are still talking about a brand that none of us prior to this campaign would have been remotely talking or blogging about-with that being said, Pepsi CAN say that their efforts worked-If that was indeed their ultimate goal. But Some have said that they would have been better suited or served going after brandd champions instead of analgous bloggers-Depends on how you want to look at, or how one might measure the results I suppose.

  • http://websuccessdiva.com/social-media-optimization-social-proof/ Blog Marketing Diva

    I agree, it’s definitely a campaign to get influencers within the blogosphere to spread the word, and a lesson many other bloggers/online businesses need to take. Thanks for your insight.

  • Paul L’Acosta

    Rohit,
    You definitely nailed it by saying that those other fellow bloggers are missing the point. Pepsi is in a very subtle manner using what we preach day in and day out: the importance of social media as a “get-the-buzz-going” platform. They started a conversation and that’s what it’s all about. By sending out only 25 boxes, how many others are part of this conversation already? Great point of view.

  • http://websuccessdiva.com/social-media-optimization-social-proof/ Blog Marketing Diva

    I agree, it’s definitely a campaign to get influencers within the blogosphere to spread the word, and a lesson many other bloggers/online businesses need to take. Thanks for your insight.

  • http://www.JackLeblond.com Jack Leblond

    I really like Pepsi – so it’s hard for me to bash, but the new logo? Come on, people know and love the original.

    Did they think that we wouldn’t compare this to HP’s very successful “31 days of the dragon?” Sure it was a great idea, one which will be duplicated by many small companies for a long time to come – but IMHO, once it’s done by one big guy, they others (regardless of industry) need to step up and be original.

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com Heather Rast

    I’m going out on a limb here…(no rotten veggies)…and wondering if the entire exercise was more of an experiment than a narrowly-focused intentional initiative?

    Let me explain. I’ve read the posts that several of you package recipients have made, and its interesting to learn of your different perspectives. There’s a mix of “brilliant!” and “total misstep” and “anxiously awaiting payoff” going on.

    In my opinion, each blogger is right on a number of levels, from execution to targets to mystery-wrapped-in-a-riddle-inside-an-enigma delivery method.

    But on a different level, I wonder if Pepsi didn’t actually accomplish a lot, in a totally indirect way.

    We talk a lot about authenticity and building credibility as marketers…and while yes, if Pepsi had singled out 25 demonstrated evangelists their collective voice would have been heard far and wide. Does targeting a different selection of vocal, visible social marketers ensure a mixed collection of perspectives, opinions, and verbalizations (posts)? What is more effective at residual ripple effects–a group of like-minded, or a group of varied opinions?

    Maybe you 25 are part of a social experiment intended to generate intellectual velocity in an academic way?

    As the end user, you 25 are the producer and distributor of the message. Who says you have to agree? And why would Pepsi want you to?

    Just some thoughts. Maybe I shoulda eaten lunch first. :-)

  • http://eyecube.wordpress.com Rick Liebling

    Couple of thoughts. First I agree with some others here in saying they may have been better off targeting brand evangelists rather than key influencers.

    Second, if I was going after key influencers, not sure marketing pros are the group I would target. For the most part, the people who read the blogs of the ’25′ are marketers themselves and probably already have an opinion on Pepsi.

    If you’re not a Pepsi fan, I’m not sure you’re going to start writing about this on your marketing blog (at least not in a positive way). If you are a Pepsi fan, well that’s the brand evangelist I was talking about in the first place.

  • http://www.shapeourbrand.com www.shapeourbrand.com

    We’ve paid some attention at this new branding effort from Pepsi here at http://www.shapeourbrand.com – considering we are attacking our new brand efforts in almost the exact same way – social media, social networking, and being as transparent as possible to our markets.

    While some may disagree with its effectiveness, the fact remains, that here we are… still talking about it.

    My only hope is that http://www.shapeourbrand.com finds even a small piece of the success that pepsi is finding – even if i don’t like the new logo ;o)

    thx
    http://www.shapeourbrand.com

  • http://www.copydiva.com/blog robin seidner

    I agree that this was probably experimental. I wonder though — maybe a better target of key influencers for them would have been programmers and developers — those fueled by Pepsi and other drinks.

    As I mentioned in my take (link to snurl.com) on this experiment, mass market brands will have a much harder time making social media conversations work for them, simply because their appeal is on a mass scale. I contend there are no influencers in social media or SocNets that care enough about Pepsi to write about it, to care about it. And, as you mention, the need or desire for a continuing conversation on it is a stretch.

  • http://www.shapeourbrand.com www.shapeourbrand.com

    We’ve paid some attention at this new branding effort from Pepsi here at http://www.shapeourbrand.com – considering we are attacking our new brand efforts in almost the exact same way – social media, social networking, and being as transparent as possible to our markets.

    While some may disagree with its effectiveness, the fact remains, that here we are… still talking about it.

    My only hope is that http://www.shapeourbrand.com finds even a small piece of the success that pepsi is finding – even if i don’t like the new logo ;o)

    thx
    http://www.shapeourbrand.com

  • http://rohitbhargava.typepad.com Rohit

    Thanks for all the comments. I can totally understand some of you faulting Pepsi’s choice of who they went for as influencers, but I would argue that the people who care about Pepsi as a drink are different to those who care about Pepsi getting a new logo. I may choose Coke much more often than Pepsi, but regardless of my beverage leanings, a huge brand like Pepsi changing their logo and how they promote it is of interest to me as a marketer and (I believe) of interest to my readers who are marketers. If this was about a new product or different drink, I would agree that targeting Pepsi drinkers or enthusiasts would make sense. In this case, they’re promoting their rebranding, and I think marketers are the perfect target – regardless of whether they drink Pepsi or not.

  • http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/ Darryl Parker

    Rohit,

    Given the twittersation I had with Bonin, I wonder if the focus was to talk about the logo?

    Thanks for the link. I’ve added you to the “Pepsi 25″

    d

  • Meghan

    This campaign is in no way disturbing Pepsi’s credibility as a brand. Establishing themselves with social media will get their name in other people’s mouths (in this case, get bloggers to write about them). The campaign demonstrates a serious marketing effort to reach an audience that they might not have otherwise.

  • Meghan

    This campaign is in no way disturbing Pepsi’s credibility as a brand. Establishing themselves with social media will get their name in other people’s mouths (in this case, get bloggers to write about them). The campaign demonstrates a serious marketing effort to reach an audience that they might not have otherwise.

  • Phil

    This new logo and new can makes very little sense to me. The red overwhelms the blue wave of pepsi. I would think they would want the blue wave on top and increasing.

    Second the pepsi up the side of the can is too small and changed orientation relative to every previous pepsi logo. Now customers down the supermarket aisle are going to have to seek out pepsi

    But suppose you were really interested in converting some coke drinkers to pepsi in a share steal method so you changed the direction of the logo. You would probably want to draw attention to your new can. I don’t think the logo and can color do that. There is a clash going on between the brand logo and the brand name.

    As far as getting you all to write about it and getting WOM on the brand and new logo..great but if customers don’t see it or worse don’t seek it. It is as Shakespeare said..”Much ado about nothing”

  • http://Www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Sorry folks maybe I am getting old, but this is SOSDD. it doesn’t tap into the true organic power of social media. It is an old PR pitch to 25 good writers and opinion leaders. I would have been more impressed if Pepsi was able to generate conversation online about their history, logo design, economic impact around the country or the world, and in so doing attract the attention of these 25 and thousands of others.

    Ok so am I missing something, am I just getting old, or is this old media pitch to new media players?

  • Marc

    Same Old Sh*t?

    Well sure. This PR formula is not new. Identify “The Influencers” and woo them. BUT we don’t hear of this happening everyday. At least not about a soft drink company and with the same amount of buzz (or fizz).

    Whether the logo is liked or not and whether the delayed delivery scheme was pompous or clever, the ‘campaign’ served its primordial purpose which is to get us talking and thinking about the brand. How many of you got just a little thirsty in the last minute?

    Now they’ve timed this (and a slick video) with a first real attempt at going social with their Friendfeed Cooler. Again, the approach may be a little awkward and still without a mature voice, but that’s another thing it got marketers and bloggers and blog readers talking about. As Heather Rast noted above, the added bonus for Pepsi: they are getting free marketing insight from industry folk and a feel for the reception of the new logo before it is massively rolled out. Perhaps they wished, as do I, that public discussions would also help confirm if changing the logo across the product family is a good idea. A non-standard yet creative approach, but is it sage for a 100+ year old brand?

  • http://www.smallbusinessmarketingconsultant.com Hamilton Wallace

    First, good for Pepsi for their efforts to use FriendFeed. It’s not the most vibrant experience I’ve stumbled onto, but I did stumble onto it. The Pepsi 25 “campaign” reminds me a bit of all the radio shows put onto TV when that medium was young. But that’s okay, whether it’s 25 magazine writers, local talk show hosts or bloggers, we’re talking about it, yes? And, if any of your fellow bloggers thought receipt of the 25 cans was, as you suggest, about getting them to start drinking the project and not about getting them to write about it, I pray they don’t blog about marketing.