As you might have heard Pepsi has decided to shelve its Super Bowl commercials and instead dedicate that money to a social media effort. A bold move for sure and given the nature of what the campaign entails, helping improve local communities, one that just might work out for Pepsi. (The image has to do with the 49ers winning it all next year)
For starters think about what Super Bowl ads are good for, announcing a brand or premiering a big new over the top marketing campaign, essentially making a big splash. Pepsi on the other hand has taken a different approach; it's "Pepsi Refresh" project will give away 32 grants a month for a year totally $20 million where participants can vote on projects such as "Help free healthcare expand in rural TN" and "Build a new fitness center for all students in Hays, Kansas".
Lauren Hobart, Pepsi's chief marketing officer was quoted in Time magazine saying, "…the Super Bowl just wasn't the right venue because we are really trying to spark a full year movement from the ground up."
Ms. Hobart, in looking for a sustained ongoing dialog, has hit the nail on the head by giving up on the 23 year old Pepsi Super Bowl tradition and embracing social media. Traditional advertising, and it doesn't get more traditional than a commercial during a football game, sees a spike in brand awareness shortly after a high profile campaign is debuted but needs a constant input of TV buys to maintain that presence in the consumers mind. Pepsi on the other hand is embracing a bottoms up approach where grassroots activism replaces over the top commercials seeking to create positive brand associations with Pepsi.
Of course for this to be $23 million well spent there are a lot of things that have to go right. First of all the goal is to create an ongoing dialog where Pepsi is communicating with its advocates and also associating its brand in a new way with the rest of the population of soda drinkers. Social Media is very good at engaging and creating brand advocates and while these are certainly valuable to have, in order to succeed on a grand scale Pepsi cannot simply rest on small social communities but rather needs a vibrant and ever growing social presence.
One big thing that needs to happen is that refresheverything.com, the campaign's home site, must utilize the power of existing social networks to spread its message far and wide. The vast majority of brand interactions are not going to happen inside their own dot com but rather out on the social web where real people talk to one another. A Facebook fan page is often telling in taking an initial look at how seriously a brand is taking the social web, Pepsi Refresh Everything (which seems to replaced the Pepsi corporate fan page) has just over 300,00 fans while Coca-Cola's Facebook page has 4.6 million fans….uh oh. Twitter tells a different story where Pepsi has 21,000 followers to Coke's 9,000 but much of the story is going to be told in retweets and mentions of the campaign over time.
The big picture here is that if Pepsi focuses on getting traffic and customers to its refresheverything.com website using the power of social media it is making a colossal mistake. What the soda giant needs to do is engage its customers and advocates where they already are, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and social communities where the vast majority of interactions take place. A page view on a corporate web site, while a good thing, simply can't compare in terms of brand building to a customer advocates out on the social web.