Pepsi’s Super ($20 Million) Social Media Risk

January 15th, 2010 by | 12 Comments

Photo by Rajasekar Alamanda

Pepsi might have shocked the world last when they announced they would not be advertising for the 24th consecutive year on the biggest night of the year for marketing and advertising campaigns. Pepsi is foregoing the $3million 30-second spots and Super Bowl glory to put its focus on two unfamiliar areas, cause marketing and social media.

The major focus for Pepsi will be on the Pepsi Refresh Project, where Pepsi will be sending grants to fund great ideas. These ideas can be anything from adding a bike path in your neighborhood to working with the homeless and anything in between.

The initiative has spawned a very big win for social media as the Refresh Project will rely heavily on social media for idea creators to promote their efforts as well as a heightened Facebook page and Blog.

The initial challenge will be spreading the word about the new campaign, as Pepsi is far lacking the social media power of rivals Coca-Cola and then using this campaign to turn people into believers (and buyers) of the Pepsi brand.

The numbers:

Pepsi’s current Facebook page redirects to the Refresh Page, where they have just over 281,000 fans. This is not a small number but pales in comparison to Coca-Cola‘s 4.1 million and Gen-Y favorite Jones Soda‘s 381,000+ fans.

This is a deficit they will have to overcome over the first few weeks of the campaign. The first call for entries starts on January 13th and rolls to the 24th. That will be their first big test.

Following the project:

The next question will come in following the money. Ford did a great job with their Fiesta campaign as it made the winners/brand advocates document their adventure. If Pepsi can follow suit and get their winners to video blog, Tweet and keep us updated on their progress this can create engagement and accountability for the money they are pouring into this campaign.

Ironically the two major brands (Ford and Pepsi) will be co-sponsoring a web-only show on Hulu together starting in February. The show, called “If I Can Dream” is produced by Simon Cowell of American Idol fame (and a product that is heavily promoted by Coca-Cola).

The impact

2010 is the year major media brands will begin to fully divulge themselves into large scale social media campaigns. Pepsi is making headlines as the first to pull major dollars, to the tune of $15 million dollars, the amount they spent last year. They have also made headlines with stories in many major media outlets, as well as social media sites like Mashable.

While Pepsi is the first player to fore go an advertising phenomenon like the Super Bowl in favor of social media, you can be assured they will  not be the last. The question from here becomes how Pepsi will be able to market their campaign effectively, driving the pageviews, eyeballs and engagement needed to keep this project afloat for longing than a month or two.

For this they are tapping the people with the ideas. Giving them the power to promote their own ideas through their social networks, communities and associations in hopes they will secure the votes needed to win the grant money.While this may be the way to organically grow their new initiative, one would think a 30 second spot in the Super Bowl with a simple call to action may be the kickoff the company needs to have the impact they want to make on the world.

Let’s talk about this

This is a big win for cause marketing as well as social media. What do you think about Pepsi’s gamble? Are they doing the right thing? Are they going to be able to sustain the campaign? Will people care enough to switch or create brand loyalty? Let’s talk in the comments below.

This post was written by social media marketer Greg Rollett. He writes about music marketing and how musicians can use social tools to impact their career.

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