Category Archives: Pepsi

Deconstructing the canned Pepsi Facebook feed

Social media promised a new ability for brands to engage with and build relationships with their customers. So why does Pepsi have such a simple Facebook feed?

If you “Like” Pepsi in Facebook, here’s what you get: A series of Pepsi cans in your Facebook feed. Cans. And more cans. Blue cans with the Pepsi logo, blue cans in front of walls, blue cans on blue cans sitting in the sand at the beach. Anyone savvy in marketing might wonder, Pepsi, can’t you do better than cans? Why aren’t you engaging with your Facebook customers?

We suggest there are three reasons Pepsi is spraying its Facebook fans with little more than images of its blue cans:

1. Engagement doesn’t work for everyone. Two decades ago, the one-to-one guru Don Peppers posited that engagement (he called it personalization) only made sense for companies whose customers had wide variances in terms of what they need from you and the financial value they provide to you. Book readers and movie renters have wide ranges in needs, so it makes sense that Amazon and Netflix became experts in personalizing recommendations. Personal investors have wide ranges in financial value, so of course financial advisors treat Jane different from Jim when they call. The more diverse the needs and values, the more critical engagement — and its corresponding personal feedback — is to persuade customers to do business with you.

But if all of a brand’s customers simply want the same commodity, it makes little sense to personalize communications or engage in meaningful two-way conversations. Gasoline, laundry detergent, kitchen ovens and sodas are all simple commodities. Customers of such products have little range in value, so treating me differently than you won’t really drive more sales. So Pepsi is doing the right thing — it’s ignoring the expense of engagement and simply spraying everyone with one simple message. We have pretty blue cans.

2. Frequency is important. U.S. consumers are exposed to thousands of advertising messages each day: more than 160 television spots, scores of web pages, and hundreds of social-media updates. The typical Facebook user makes 3.5 “Likes” or comments daily, and with the average user having 234 friends, he or she (Facebook Edgerank filters notwithstanding) could be exposed to 820 messages bouncing back to them daily. Brands must break through this clutter, and the best way to influence consumers is to focus on frequency — the idea that it takes 3 or 4 outbound messages per week for a brand to penetrate a consumer’s mind. By peppering you with blue Pepsi can images, Pepsi is building a frequency of advertising impressions that might influence you next time you’re shopping in the soda aisle.

3. Social media is not “social” most of the time — because if one-way communications are a worthy goal, the “social” is gone and all that is left is broadcast media. This sounds cold, but most of social media has turned into broadcast as users spray other users with their wit, links and thoughts much more than they engage in two-way conversations. If you don’t really listen to the 1,000 people you connect with on Twitter, what chance does a non-corporeal brand have to really engage with you?

Pepsi is doing the right thing by turning social media into a spray-and-pray advertising platform. That’s the hard logic of a world where there are more commodity brands who want to engage with you than you have attention to give back in return. Pepsi may seem annoying in your Facebook stream, but look again, people: All Pepsi is doing is making its soda pop.

SXSW interview: Pepsi’s social media move explained

Our Humongo partner Darryl Ohrt sat down with PepsiCo’s Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media, and Josh Karpf, digital media manager, to ask what was up with this giant brand dissing the Super Bowl. Turns out the world is moving from impressions to connections, but one doesn’t necessarily replace the other: Like stocking both Gatorade and Tropicana in your fridge, there’s more than one way to refresh a brand.

The forces driving The Economist to Facebook


Word came across the pond today that stiff-upper-lipped Economist.com plans to acquire half a million Facebook fans in the next six months. Publisher Ben Edwards told The Financial Times that making The Economist more social is “the core of our strategy.” What gives?

Let’s view the world of publishing competition as a play in three acts. Act 1 began 100 years ago with Michael Porter’s classic five forces model. (If you haven’t read Porter, the genius who coined the phrase “competitive advantage,” all you need to know is five things act on any organization — suppliers upstream, customers downstream, competitors in your space, and potential substitutes or entrants. This works in marriages, too, but we digress.)


Publishing thrived in this model nicely, with the nuance that it really served two sets of customers, the audience who watched TV or read the magazines and the advertisers who in turn chased that audience. Since advertisers fund 90% of any publishing venture (subscription fees are but a pittance), the size of the audience was paramount.

And then, in the late 1990s, the Internet and Google reared their heads … and audiences began to move south.


This second act of the publishing era gave us the Andersonian Long Tail, or what we call “The Era of Search Substitutes”: readers rushing from paid subscriptions to millions of free web sites, anything you desire found via Google.com. Because audiences were so vital, publishers gave away a portion of their wares online for free in hopes of luring readers back, opening a Pandora’s box of declining print circulation and ad revenue.


And then in the past two years, audiences moved again — to Act 3, “The Era of Social Entrants.” What at first seemed online games for flirting teenagers became tools attracting millions of users, who could follow breaking news inside Twitter faster than CNN and network professionally with thousands of new contacts without the onerous ping-pong of email. The iPhone, the first portable device with easy Internet access, pushed the trend, and next year both Apple and Dell are set to release larger-screen mobile tablets that will take portable interactivity further.

Can publishers rebuild subscriptions in a new sharing world?

Once again, publishers face a threat, but there is also hope of more control … since marquee brands can sound their own voices in social media forums. Tablets are being eyed especially closely, since they provide a narrow window for publishers to improve their content in exchange for new paying subscribers. (See this Sports Illustrated tablet demo for a sneak preview at their tempting tablet layouts.) The trick will be to move beyond gimmicks to give users some skin in the game; The Economist, for instance, will encourage commenting inside Facebook and Twitter by building a new Economist.com “reputation system,” similar to the rank-scoring mechanisms of “follower counts” that make Twitter so popular.

Since social propagation can’t be controlled and requires constant experimentation — there is a Talebesque randomness to the fads that “go viral” — The Economist is making managing its social media presence a full-time job. Major retailers are moving this way, too: Pepsi just announced it is skipping SuperBowl advertising in 2010 to instead drop $20 million on social media experiments, and Amazon.com now provides widgets helping bloggers link its online products for a cut of the sale.

The Financial Times notes “broadcasters … are finding that mingling with the huge audiences gathering on Twitter and Facebook can be a source of traffic to rival that of search engines.” Perhaps this is a wake-up call for your business, if you’re still focused solely on your advertising, web site, or search presence. What are you doing to attract the rising crowds in the social entrant space?

Economist photo: Suttonhoo

Starbucks’ unbranding and the persuasion defense


Whoa, say brand observers. What’s up? Starbucks recently opened coffee shops in Seattle with unique names totally unrelated to the master Starbucks brand. One outlet is called 15th Ave Coffee and Tea, which Liz Muller, director of global concept design at Starbucks, says will make the chain more accessible. “Is this for every Starbucks?” she says. “No. There is a place for this in specific neighborhoods in the U.S. and potentially globally. Each approach will be different to reflect the neighborhood it is in.”

You heard that right — each approach means Starbucks is expanding such “unbranding.” Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy seemed puzzled “since the Starbucks brand has been such an integral part of their success.” And Starbucks is hiding the master brand well; 15th Ave’s web site has no mention of the corporate parent and hints it’s run by a pleasant woman named Jenna.

We asked Branislav Peric, social influence marketing lead at Duke Razorfish in Paris, what he thought. “Unbranded, in the case of Starbucks, does not mean another brand, but compromising the Starbucks’ difference,” Branislav said. “Unbranded also means that this new Starbucks experience will be close to unbranded coffee shops … unpredictable.”

Consumers are building a persuasion defense

Media analyst Gladys Santiago counters Starbucks is making a savvy move, similar to Pepsi’s recent decision to allow consumers in Argentina to misspell its name. It’s all about overcoming consumers’ defenses to your brand, she says, pointing to a landmark 1994 thesis by Marian Friestad and Peter Wright on persuasion knowledge. In simple terms, persuasion knowledge means consumers know that you are trying to seduce them, so they filter every message accordingly. Like a businessman arriving in a foreign hotel who is suddenly approached by an attractive woman, consumers are constantly on guard against the hidden motive.

Consumers know, for instance, that attention, emotion and trust are common tactics in influence. Celebrity endorsements capture attention. Scare tactics spur emotion. Brands provide trust. And when any of these aspects seems suspect — is William Shatner really your gateway to travel savings? Will health care reform really kill old people in death panels? Is Starbucks really so trustworthy that you wouldn’t rather try a little unknown coffee shop? — consumers move on.

Marketers have known for decades that consumers are gun shy about buying from single brand entities. Brand architecture often creates fragmented options to provide the illusion of choice and to remove boredom; stroll down a convenience store beverage aisle or the laundry detergent row in your grocery store and you’ll see hundreds of sub-brands produced by the same five or six corporate parents.

But Starbucks’ move poses a deeper question, as well, of whether Jack Trout’s 1969 concept positioning has finally met its match in the 3,000 marketing claims consumers must now process every day. Positioning held that a marketer could grab a top rung in a consumer’s mind; but if the little brand ladders in our heads are now filled with 1,000 rungs in every product category, perhaps being totally unique is as good a brand position as any. Uniqueness suggests authenticity, and authenticity has value. We hear you can find it on 15th Avenue in Seattle.

Image: Konekotichy

A BeanCast debate: Cutting out the middleman


Damn that Chris Anderson. He’s been talking for more than a year about the trend of services being priced for free, and now big companies like Coke are taking notice.

Last night we recorded a podcast debate with the brilliant Joseph Jaffe, Bill Green and Bob Knorpp on tectonic shifts of disintermediation rocking the communications industry. Coke is going directly to marketing results, telling its agencies they must now work on a pay-for-performance model and risk having their fees cut if they don’t hit targets. The Current Network, a television project launched by Al Gore, undercut agency hunters by sending out an RFP for advertising work directly on Twitter. And the Chuck television show undercut Nielsen ratings via a groundswell of loyalists demanding the show be saved, tipping their hat to the advertiser Subway.

Cut, cut, cut. Suppliers and consumers finding each other more efficiently, squeezing the people in the middle who used to connect them. Chris Anderson, you’re taking all the joy out of business.

Download the podcast debate for free here, and don’t miss us all interrupting Mr. Jaffe. 😉

Photo: Dr. Craig

Pepsi Zeitgeist, or Twitter as the database of the now


We’re flying to Austin’s SXSW Interactive conference tomorrow, you know, that geekfest where people who don goggles to peer at what’s coming down the internet highway get together for illumination and ale. While there is a lot of silly crap floating around from brands trying to edge in on the event — P&G made a clichéd, lame attempt last night by enlisting the usually brilliant David Armano in trying to hawk Tide T-shirts for charity — Pepsi is the brand that has hit coopted event coolness out of the park.

Pepsi launched a microsite that compiles Twitter text feeds from anyone mentioning what they’re doing at the SXSW conference — perfect for internet addicts arriving in droves, trying to plug in. Beyond the graphic gimmicks, the Pepsi site taps the real power of Twitter as the database of the now, or the only tool we know of that gives you huge sets of information on what people in the world are doing at this very instant. Experian has profiles and demographics and psychographics. TransUnion can slice and dice your credit report. But who else can tell if we’re chilling with a friend, about to eat a taco?

If you are still new to Twitter, visit its search menu here, type in a topic (or your brand), and find out what millions of people are saying about it at this very instant.

Dead breakfast cereals, or how to survive the coming brand contraction


Remember Yummy Mummy? Gunaxin has a nice ode to discontinued breakfast cereals, which reminds us of the current brand collapse going on inside consumers’ heads.

Product brands today are under tremendous pressure to survive, and it’s not driven by companies like GM desperately seeking to cut back. The root cause is the decline in consumer consumption and the corresponding lack of interest in brand options. Decades ago Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote the brilliant book Positioning, explaining that consumers (even back in the 1970s) faced information overload and so defended themselves by creating little ladders of product consideration in their heads. If a person is only moderately interested in a product — say watches — she might be able to rattle off Casio, Timex, Swiss Army and Rolex. In her mind, she only has four rungs on the watch brand ladder. By comparison, a guy who loves watches might think of scores of brands: Accurist, Adriatica, Alpina, Aviator, Baume et Mercier, Bell & Ross, Breitling, Bulgari, Bulova … with lots more rungs in his head.


The goal of brand managers is to grab a rung in that mental positioning ladder, and the classic strategy is to “position” your brand vs. someone else. If Hertz is No. 1 in car rentals, Avis tries harder. This positioning strategy was hot in the 1980s and early ’90s — think of the Coke vs. Pepsi wars or Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” — but has cooled off recently, with far fewer brands attacking others or deliberately taking position against a competitor’s attributes. It’s time to reconsider. As consumers retrench in this severe recession, their mental consideration set of potential consumption options is way down. There are fewer rungs in their heads. Someone may love Saabs, but what about Saturns and Pontiacs? And if some brands will fade from these mental ladders, shouldn’t you try to make sure it’s your competitor, and not you?

The point for marketers is you now need to be aware, more than any time in the past two decades, of how your brand is positioned against other options. Consumers are backing away from the cereal aisle, and some sweet brands are about to get taken off the shelf.

Via Make the Logo Bigger and Graham English.

A look behind the silly Pepsi brand manual


Ad people are chuckling over the supposed Pepsi brand manual now floating on the internet — which compares the logo development with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Grecian mathematics and the earth’s magnetic field. But we say bravo, TBWA/Chiat Day or clever jokester behind the brand architecture, because someone had to motivate the company to do something.

The lesson here is you have to sell hard to get anything good done.

Group execution requires consensus, and consensus is the enemy of genius because it usually requires negotiation, modification, and dumbification. The problem grows bigger with every extra body in your team. For example, two people come to agreement relatively easily, but first they must juggle four possible outcomes in their negotiations to get to “yes-yes.”
But the network dynamic expands exponentially as you add more decision-makers. A team with only five people has 10 internal debate lines and 40 potential decision points. This is why committees often stall.
Given such multiple players, there is never a simple path to consensus — and there is a 39/40 chance in a group of five that the idea will be modified into porridge. The only pathway to brilliance is either a strong leader with vision, or a supporting team that sells an idea way too hard (see: Pepsi brand manual). Gary DiCamillo, onetime CEO of Polaroid, was famous for “80% solutions,” the belief that there is never enough data to prove any initiative will work, so if one is 80% of the way to assurance, why, go ahead and launch. The Pepsi brand document may be a spoof, but it illustrates beautifully how difficult it is to convince a team a single idea has merit. Hey. If a circle worked for Da Vinci, it will surely sell soda.

Via This Is Herd and Brandflakes.

Pepsi opens and shuts its mouth

So the bubbly beverage company is once again rethinking its logo. Our branding pal Bill Green has been following this drama (see Bill’s genius here). We note Pepsi has built in some graphics flexibility — the new logo treatment opens or closes like an angry mouth, depending on the product and the demo. In a world of a million consumer choices, having only one logo no longer will do. Can’t wait to see the Pepsi logo skull version targeting 18-year-olds looking for max amped ginseng Panax schinseng caffeine.

Pepsi in the raw (with real sugar)


You may not remember Pepsi Twist, Pepsi Samba, Crystal Pepsi, or Pepsi Holiday Spice. But stand back. Pepsi Raw is a new healthy-vibe, all-natural version of the soft drink being launched this week in UK bars. It’s made with apple extract, caramel coloring, real cane sugar, a touch of coffee leaf, and no artificial preservatives or sweeteners. Real sugar. Sweet.

A few critics have noted the irony of launching a healthy cola in Liverpool pubs. We say Pepsi is going after the key social connectors. You know, that guy you want to be like in the Liverpool pub. Nicely played, PepsiCo (and bring it on in the U.S.).