advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cool! Awesome! Pepsi is using social media to launch! Okay, now, here’s where they blew it.

NOTE: If you are coming to this from other links, scroll to end of this post for updated comments.

Blew it? Not really, after all, it’s the internet. There’s always a second chance to redo a bad first impression, right? Being the first bald guy to say what the second one did weeks later, I’m not going to rehash what constitutes a brand. Read it when you have a sec.

(My only crit of the new logo is that while it may have been going for the smile motif, and there may be alt versions floating around soon, turning it on too much of an angle makes it lose some of the easily recognizable characteristics a smile has, making me have to see it. Don’t argue. It does.)

Forget that, this is about Pepsi using social media to help relaunch itself, and where I think it’s already missing chances to be the innovators they see themselves as. A launch that started with a FriendFeed room where people can comment on posts from the team running things called The Pepsi Cooler. Head over, check it out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

(*goes to fridge to get Pepsi while waiting for happy readers to return*)

Back? Good. I realize they say the launch effort is a work in progress, so I am considering stuff I bitch about below may already be in the works. All I can go by is what I see though. The biggest problem I have is how they decided who should be let in to help them spread the word. Mac sums up what the difference between influencers and evangelists is in relation to who Pepsi should’ve approached to get the word out about this.

Good points, but not quite what I’m talking about in this case. (If you’re thinking, “Dude, post your gripes over in the Pepsi room if you feel that strongly about it,” relax. I’ll tell you in a follow-up post why I’m holding off doing that.)

So here are some of the things I noticed...

First: Do it right.
If you can drop a million on a logo redesign, you can afford more than 25 Pepsi kits to go out to people. 25? And the people need to include actual users of the product, (*clears throat, raises hand*), Mac’s influencers and evangelists, yes, but also ad bloggers. My informal poll among some of the biggest ad blogs shows that only Steve at AdRants got Pepsi love. (I’m guest blogging for them while they hit ad:tech next week and hoping he left a few cans for me.) But Dave from AdFreak, David at AdPulp, Brian at Adweek, Alan at Toad, etc.? Nothing.

I could I go on, but you see the pattern. (PR blogs? Social media experts? Invited in droves apparently.) The result is ad bloggers writing long angry missives late at ni... early in the morning. Look, not that I care. I’m up late at night for other reasons, but it just seems the one group who deal with and comment on a lot of the work Pepsi does in terms of campaigns and promotions would be considered worthy of inclusion to a larger degree than it initially was.

Second: Tough room.
The tone of the FriendFeed room feels a lot less like true collaboration with the internetz in helping to shape this initiative than it does “Here’s what we heard you’re supposed to do step-by-step when launching something online.” Funny, I get the same vibe from my 3 x 5 index card reading friends at Dell tech support. The legalese, while keeping copywriters busy, makes me stop when I get to point 7:
From time to time, Pepsi-Cola may ask that you transmit to the Site by electronic mail your feedback on Pepsi-Cola's products and/or services. Any communication or material you transmit or post will be (a) treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary by Pepsi-Cola, (b) become the property of Pepsi-Cola and Pepsi-Cola shall exclusively now and hereinafter own all rights, title and interest therein, and (c) used without restriction by Pepsi-Cola or its bottlers, licensees and affiliates at its sole discretion without any obligation, compensation or other liability to you. Such use may be for any purpose whatsoever, including, but not limited to, reproduction, disclosure, transmission, publication, broadcast and posting whole or in part, in any medium and in any manner on this Site or otherwise. However, Pepsi-Cola shall be under no obligation to respond to any such communication.
So, the spirit of collaboration exists until someone comes up with something that Pepsi can then use any way they see fit without compensation? Nice. The last line though sums it up: A conversation online where one party is basically not obligated to respond. Doesn’t sound like a brand that’s very open to being ... open.

Third: Open all night.
Aka, the internet don’t sleep. See the timestamp below? By the time I’m done running spellcheck which still misses the typoz you people don’t tell me about, it will be some ungodly hour. The Pepsi room has four people who leave at six apparently and will try and moderate comments when they can. No offense, but I do this blog for free. I put my heart and soul into it, same as I do for paying projects from clients. I don’t leave at five.

Not that I’m knocking Steve Rubel, far from it. I’ve gotten a ton of useful stuff from Micro Persuasion over the years that helped keep this blog going, it’s just that if there’s a Worldwide in your agency’s name, there needs to be lights on 24/7 for any of the brand efforts they do. Certainly four people can handle running one page.

I rant, I bring up money, I stay up late only because this stuff drives me nuts and I care about it maybe too much. If I know this, if the ad bloggers above know this as well, then why doesn’t Pepsi? These are the things which should already be stock on the 2008 Pepsi Launch LX model.

“But large brands can’t move that fast, this is a good first step.”

I’m sorry, what? There have simply been too many case studies out there already when it comes to seeing what to do and what not to do when it comes to social media and nailing this shit right out of the gate. Based on past performance, this is shaping up as another corporate effort from Pepsi that could end up flatter than the cases of Pepsi in the front of the local Kwik-E-Mart.

Fourth: No Twitter, no Facebook, no problem?
I understand FriendFeed is trying to position itself as the new kid on the block when it comes to aggregating your online self, but it ain
t there yet. Not having any presence on Twitter is amazing, especially when it comes to a major launch effort like this. Now, maybe I missed it but a search only turned up a dormant Pepsi account last updated March of 2007. Even still, there was no link to it from the Cooler nor to their Facebook page. (Anyone using FF almost always includes under their profile the other sites they can be found at.)

Fifth: Let. Real. People. Design. Your. Logo.
Okay, this falls under the whacky promotion heading, but how cool would it have been to let anyone in the world have a shot at designing the next Pepsi logo? Arguably, Pepsi is the first mega brand to be redesigning and relaunching itself at the current peak of online social media popularity and usage. For a brand claiming it’s trying to break new ground and change how it markets itself, why not show their audience that they truly ‘get’ them and let them participate.

That would have generated more discussion than the ones now about the million spent by Arnell. Because even if the logos sucked, and you still ended up going to a high-end firm to get it done, you could write it off as having been done by the loser masses. (No offense to the loser masses.) But really, how many people from high-end firms would've entered that contest anyway. Lots.

Instead, Pepsi got sold on the traditional marketing move where an agency offered to do everything for them in terms of rebranding, believing that a fresh image brings instant brand and brand cred. Corporations can’t help avoiding this trap. Have some guts and let people go for it. You would have gone from spending a one with six zeros to getting a bunch of free publicity.

Oh, wait. I know. They still can. See the next post for my Design Your Own Pepsi Logo Contest!

UPDATE 11/10/08: Since this effort by Pepsi has had a few weeks to run its course, there are a few things I noticed:

1) I’m hearing Pepsi get 'kudos' for ‘starting’ the conversation. Not sure it’s warranted. There are too many existing campaigns out there already for Pepsi to be only be doing what they’ve done so far.

2) “Well, influencers are talking about it, so it’s a success.” Hmmm. Define success. What the brand wants to hear or the reality of what people are really saying. Not buying that either, the classic Any PR is good PR mantra either. Aren’t we past that point in the game to use that metric? Based on that logic, I can get Pepsi attention guaranteed:

Hunting rifle. T-shirt with the new logo. Mall. Check please.

3) Pepsi and the agency advising them are now asking people what they should do. On one hand, I’d say fine. Asking for feedback from customers is always the easiest, safest thing to do because you can always learn something, (provided you listen to what they say of course). This ain’t that though.

Feels like, they launched a quick FriendFeed, then went about asking basic marketing questions that should have been asked elsewhere first, and more in a more low-key approach.

Again, there is simply too much that’s already been done for Pepsi to have to now ask these questions publicly. I’m not saying the brand people aren’t trying, they are. I’m saying the agency in charge should’ve already had these answers because they’re obvious.

4) No response. I mentioned in this post originally that I was only posting this here. I was doing it as a little test to see if they would bother tracking blogs and comments. Nothing. I then posted a comment in the FriendFeed room to one of their questions. No response. Now, weeks after launch they’re monitoring blogs via the tag below, but, people have to tag stuff for them. To quote someone famous, this ain’t rocket science. This is basic stuff we’re talking about here that should’ve been done from the start, and an agency that actually knows the space would know this.




Anonymous said...

Nice post, Bill. If I didn't know they had included Steve, I'd worry that they were intentionally targeting bloggers inclined to be friendly toward the effort. But Steve's not known for going easy on folks, so I can't fault them there.

I'm also a little confused by the small number of "influencers" contacted. I can't decide if that's a sign that they really want focused feedback or that it's just a publicity stunt. I guess the question is, are they really seeking feedback? What is the intended conversation?

And don't sweat my omission from their mailing list. I live in the South. If I got three boxes of Pepsi on my doorstep, people would be shaking Coke cans and throwing them through my window all night.

Anonymous said...

I can't see anything but this...

and once seen, it can't be unseen

phillybikeboy said...

It looks like the logo for a feminine hygiene product, or hone pregnancy test.

LA said...

Right now it just makes me thing of the Obama logo. Not that that's bad, it will just be irrelevant. Not because I think Obama's going to lose, but because campaigns' have logos. Not Presidents.