Pepsi refreshes its approach to marketing

This is an article by David Clare.
You could write for Behind the Spin too. Find out how here.

Brands are constantly performing acts of generosity, even while acting out of commercial self-interest. This leads to a common view that any large company doing something charitable has ulterior motives that are more to do with stock prices and hiding the negatives.

Well, to be honest, this is probably quite true. Companies can probably always spare a little more, but to criticise them for not doing so is backwards. They are money making machines; it is their purpose. To do charity is an act of goodwill and at the end of the day, the charity still benefits.

There are still cynics out there, but I would suggest corporate social responsibility (CSR) is something organisations take seriously, do in fact care about, and in some cases go to extreme lengths to show they care.

Pepsi is one such organisation. Their recent campaign, the ‘Refresh Project’, has now come full circle with the results revealed to the public; and boy did they do well!

Pepsi Refresh, launched January 13, 2010, came out of the fizzy drink company’s decision to not spend their annual $20 million budget on Super Bowl ads – something they had done for the past 23 years.

The campaign, which was an entirely social media campaign (well it is 2010!), asked for people to send in ideas on how to ‘refresh’ their communities. Once the ideas were made live on the site, they would be voted on by all other users. Naturally, the most popular ideas would win. A classic technique, but never before done in such a large scale with such magnificent results.

Return on investment (ROI) is king in public relations; for the client at least. They must know at all times that their money is being spent well. For Pepsi this was a huge risk, since the Super Bowl is a guaranteed success. I am happy to say they took the risk, and have proved (in this particular campaign) that public relations can be a far more cost effective solution to gaining coverage.

In a Mashable interview with Bonin Bough, Bough revealed that not only has the campaign resulted in a huge ROI, but also made a large impact on the communities they wanted to help. He even reveals the Pepsi team physically applauded the idea when it was pitched… very cool. On top of this he also confirms the programme is coming back next year, and will be global, so we in the UK can also benefit.

So what is the ROI Pepsi has managed to achieve is this campaign?

Pepsi managed to win over the public in such a huge way. They made an offer directly to the communities who needed help, they offered cash for their own ideas; something more appealing than anything politicians can offer when it comes to regeneration. Also, by capitalising on the Gulf oil spill – giving $1.3 million in funding to ‘refresh the Gulf’ – they managed to generate mass appeal and backing from the general public when the actual government was struggling.

It is no surprise then that the campaign managed to attain nearly the same amount of votes as the most recent US general election. In total there were over 61 million votes, while the US general election 2010 achieved 89 million. Comparing this to the Super Bowl makes more sense, of course, since the campaign replaced the advertising space dedicated to this short space of time.

It is difficult to compare 61 million votes to the number of views the Super Bowl achieve. Super Bowl views may be higher than views of an advert (that’s the time to fetch another beer, right?) while votes may have been preceded by blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts etc. all with another layer of viewers the message had an impression on. 61 million votes are engaged actions, while views are not, therefore they carry far, far more weight.

Keep this in mind and I believe you will be impress by the results of the campaign. The Super Bowl in 2009 managed to achieve 162 million viewers worldwide. This is worldwide, not just the US – therefore different adverts, and as suggested before a number that represents non-engaged consumers.

The reason for such high engagement is not shocking. Charity may sometimes be seen as a corporate routine practice with little meaning. However, when a company announces they will pull advertising from the Super Bowl; people stand up and listen. Not only this, but giving away such huge amounts of money to those in need really pulls on the heart strings.

A good campaign in my eyes. But what do you think? Which makes you prefer Pepsi more? Britney, or something worthwhile?


  1. For me, it’s the worthwhile option that makes Pepsi a more attractive brand. Using celebrities such as David Beckham is a recycled and shallow tactic, but if you know they’re going to make a difference then the perception of them becomes far more amicable.

  2. David Clare says:

    Completely agree Alex. I am looking forward to seeing this campaign in the UK as they roll it out globally in 2011.

Speak Your Mind