advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The problem with Pepsi, the ‘fun’ brand.

I have brand resentments.

Every year during the Super Bowl Big Game, I watch celebs in Pepsi spots try and endure sitcom scenarios followed by the inevitable free song download url. Then I watch Coke and the nice family life moments they always seem to have and wonder why I can’t be like that. I mean, I like fun, but I also like family moments too. It’s that way with other brands in my life. Take Lee vs. Levis: I love Levi’s, and who wouldn’t: It’s young hipsters messing around in skeezy motels while Lee is the jeans for your mom—and country singer loving NASCAR drivers. Mac vs. PC? I’m all over Apple because, well, they’re so cool.

Least that’s what advertising tell me.

So when I saw news in Ad Age that Pepsi is redoing everything about itself in attempt to focus on the “...packaged liquid refreshment beverage category,” I laughed, then I cried. (Humans from Western NY, PA and MN know it as soda or pop, etc.) I swear half the problem with brands is marketing speak: “every aspect of the brand proposition for our key [carbonated soft drink] brands.”)

Two things immediately came to mind, one tactical, one strategic.

First, from a strategic POV, I’ve been a Pepsi loyalist forever, pretty much drinking it my whole life. Mt. Dew? Got me through college thank you very much and still does to this day. Life, not college, freaks.

I live this brand and guarantee I shatter the high school teen demo they have in their heads. I should also say that I freelanced for their promotion agency, and it sucks knowing the brand will run the same stuff again, year after year, instead of doing something truly cool.

ShopRite doesn’t care about brand messaging. They care about coupons and shelf space. It’s this thinking that generally infects brands and holds them back from being great. Retailing giants like Pepsi now want soccer moms to buy a few cases for a Super Tailgate Party and, wait for it, maybe get some salsa and chips with that! TIE-IN! Whoo-hoo! Everyone wins!)

Sucks because there’s a lot that can be done against that proposition of fun they’re so locked and loaded on. Coupons and new packaging will change my perception of the brand?

Not. Even. Close.

I drink it because I like the taste, plain and simple. As it is with Coke drinkers: They wouldn’t touch Pepsi if Paris Hilton served it to them naked. People have their brand preferences and that’s it. Now, I know Pepsi and Arnell Group have hired top design talent to redo everything, no doubt. It’s what you expect and any designer worth anything would kill for a shot at that gig. But, Pepsi, listen up:

No ad, no designer makeover of the label will change how I feel about the brand or why I use it.

All moves like this do is demonstrate that some brands still have a traditional mindset they can’t get rid of: We will tell you what we want the message to be about our brand and more importantly, what we think it is. This is the age-old problem. The disconnect if you will between what brands think they know about consumers and what consumers really think.

When Pepsi decides that fun is the only message, it’s a little disappointing.

Why should I settle for Justin Timberlake getting hit in the nuts? I want serious Coke moments too. I want to teach people to sing on mountaintops. Okay, maybe not, but I’ve also had a Pepsi after some serious things happened in my life and connected with the brand as it were while contemplating how messed up things got.

Why not open the brand up to be all the things someone experiences, not just the happy ones? Budweiser doesn’t have a problem doing touching spots and humorous ones. Those damn Clydesdales will run followed closely by a roommate sketch with secret beer chute in the fridge. It’s called multiple voices Pepsi, look into it.

Seriously though, does Pepsi think all of the boomers who grew up on their product will just suddenly stop drinking it once they get to a certain age?

Missing. An. Opportunity.

Tactically, there’s another thing that might be key to their efforts here, which is the apparent monopoly that Coke seems to have over practically the entire fast food industry. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are the only ones I’ve seen carry Pespi products, (and that’s only because Pepsi owns those chains), but nowhere else. What this does in effect is say to Pepsi drinkers: You have no choice when you go to Wendy’s, Subway, Burger King, McDonald’s, etc. Which has to hurt them because those chains all put a huge focus on youth marketing, yet, where’s Pepsi?

(I seriously don’t know what the hell kind of deal Coke was able to swing with those chains, I really don’t, but it sucks that I can’t get Pepsi when I go to most of them. Monopoly much? If Pepsi wants more share, then they need to start throwing down like hockey moms and yank some jerseys over heads and get in there.)

I wish the brand luck. Luck though to the people who lost their jobs over this makeover even more. Safe to say they’re not having much fun now, if they’re even having a Pepsi now.

(Images via, via, via and via.)


nickysam said...

Pepsi customers buy their products because of taste, price, packaging, promotional factors and of a wide variety of brands. Production and sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products were previously banned in government and educational institutions by many states.

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evablue said...

pardon the beavis and butthead reaction for a moment but those visuals are asking to be commented!

The Hoff RULES. I respect the man for having no shame and literally living the brand. And I can't stop imagining how that bottle cap represents all German women. [SHUDDER]

And Justin needs a kick in the balls. Ahem.

Up here in French Canada, Pepsi sells more than Coke. Might be subconscious political thing since red=liberals, blue=sovereignists

Our Pepsi spokesperson is a comedian. Seems goofy sells more than hot and speaks to the common people.

M.M. McDermott said...

Shit, Boomers are old school, Bill. According to the trade rags their buying power is shrinking quicker than a dog dick in December (sorry, Bukowski). Whether that's actually true or not, IDK. But it seems like youth is always the de facto audience.

It's only a matter of time before you get a TV spot with skateboarders in adult diapers, positioning Depends as the only way for cool kids on the go "to go" without stopping.

Make the logo bigger said...

@m.m. - diasgree on boomer spending power. And one of the fastest growing video game demos is 49+. There are gonna be a lot of boomers with false teeth still drinking it. Who's gonna sell it to them, a 24-year old Death Cab for Cutie, three t-shirts and Chucks wearing writer?


M.M. McDermott said...

Serves me right for trusting a demo blurb. But with the economy circling the bowl, you don't see our parents pulling back as their 401Ks sink?

You've got the false teeth right. That soft drink swill will rot you through to the core. That's why I free base No Doz. ;)

M.M. McDermott said...

And as far as who's gonna sell them, well, I suppose agencies should split the difference and stock the writing pits with Gen X talent. Keep the Millennials in the mail room.

Anonymous said...

We hear that Pepsi advertising is not effectively speaking to you, that it's missing the chance to excite you. Would you consider the possibility that YOU are not who Pepsi is concerned about? As you mentioned, you are a "Pepsi loyalist forever" (and there are comparable Coke folk, too), and your "purchasing annuity" is assumed. Like so many groups which are likewise marginalized in our political elections, the brand is speaking to and going after the wallets of those who are NOT "loyalists" drinkers -- the undecideds, the independents, the not-loyalists. Not to sound mean, but what you gonna do, drink Coke? I didn't think so.