I admit it. I’m a Pepsi fan boy. Have been almost all my life. Figuring out why would be like trying to reach agreement on the chicken or the egg — is it because I like the taste or because of external factors? Who knows? Frankly, who cares?

Pepsi, or more specifically Diet Pepsi, is my soft drink of choice for one primary reason and a half dozen secondary ones. The primary one is I prefer the taste of that of Diet Coke. Like the can says, it’s light, crisp and refreshing. It’s also sweeter. Diet Coke has a bitterness to it I don’t care for. Not that it tastes bad. If a restaurant serves Coke products, I’ll have Diet Coke and be just fine with it. But I prefer Diet Pepsi.

The secondary ones include the fact some distant cousins ran the Pepsi Cola Bottling Plant in my home town, it won the Pepsi Taste Test both on TV and in my house and, of course, it allowed me to watch Beyonce stroll across my television screen in slow motion in the summer of 2003.

I suppose it would also then be appropriate to admit that I drink, on average and with no exaggeration, between 10 and 20, 12-ounce servings of Diet Pepsi’s each day. Yes, my kidneys continue to function. No, my doctor hasn’t told me to stop, only to drink more water and I’ll be fine. (I happen to think he’s nuts, too, but we get along.)

Last week, for the first time in my 30-plus years and after roughly $63,000 in cost to me and my family drinking Diet Pepsi over the years (35 years, 10 cans at $0.50 per can per day, plus eight extra days for leap years), Pepsi gave me something.

As you may have seen on other blogs, Pepsi is reaching out to the blogosphere and digital influencers to begin a conversation about the brand. There were allegedly only 25 people who received the three boxes of Pepsi cans representing the evolution of the brand iconography over the years. The third box was a six-pack of the new Pepsi cans (complete with actual Pepsi; the others were sealed but empty) displaying the new branding.

Nice attention-getter. The last package also contained a DVD I’ll get around to watching at some point and an invitation to join the brand for conversations online.

Pepsi has an active room on FriendFeed that serves as a central hub of Pepsi conversation and Bonin Bough (Pepsi’s new media guy and cool cat), Steve Rubel (Edelman/Pepsi’s PR firm guy) and others are instigating interesting conversations there regularly. I love the fact they are engaging consumers in conversation. Some of the questions posted are:

  • “Question of the day: in the spirit of collaboration, how would you, moving forward guide the Pepsi brand in engaging folks like you through social media?”
  • “So in your view: who is the coolest company engaged in social media today? Who gets it? Who should Pepsi be emulating? Who should be our role models? Eager for your thoughts.”
  • “A few folks have questioned why we haven’t added a Twitter account as part of this program. They are saying it would bring more people into the conversation and take the dialogue beyond this room. It’s an interesting concept. Any thoughts on how we might build this out?”

Being a Pepsi fan and social media addict, I really like what they’re starting to do. I’m sure the evolution of their social media activity will continue to impress folks. They do, after all, have money to spend and any brand with a budget can do some cool things.

But I have to admit something. I can’t really think of any reason to have a conversation with Pepsi. I can’t think of anything I would do above and beyond what I already do for the brand if I did. I don’t want anything else from Pepsi (although I do dig free stuff) either.

So what’s the point?

Maybe they’ll find a compelling reason for me to become engaged with the brand and that will change, but here’s what I would say to Pepsi if given the chance:

  1. Don’t change your formula. (See: New Coke)
  2. Keep doing whatever you have to do to get Pepsi poured in more locations. When I want a drink, it’s normally a Pepsi.
  3. More Beyonce (preferably in slow motion).

That’s it. Do 1 and 2 and you’ll never lose me. Do 3 and you’ll never lose me and keep a smile on my face.

That said, I was asked to list five things I was passionate about for a project at work. My list included my children, West Virginia University football, John Prine music, Twitter and Diet Pepsi. So I can’t argue that the brand isn’t one that evokes passion in consumers (like, say, paper clips) and thus doesn’t really have a need for social media or community building. But, for the life of me, I can’t identify something about Pepsi — specifically Pepsi — that makes me want to tap the person next to me and ask, “Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke and why? Can I buy you a Pepsi and talk about why you should switch?”

Does Pepsi need a cause? Will it change my willingness to proselytize? Should Pepsi stick to Beyonce? I could talk about Beyonce, now. But would I connect that conversation with Pepsi?

I ask these questions for two reasons. First, I want Pepsi to see them, to know the challenge they face with at least one, very passionate, fan boy. I’m sure others might feel the same way about something so ubiquitous in the consumer landscape we just take it for granted. But I also ask those questions to help illustrate the challenge even the most sophisticated marketers face in today’s consumer landscape.

It’s hard to market Pepsi. Yes, even Pepsi.

So what would you do to make me want to tell others about my favorite soft drink? What other brands have saturated the market to the extent they’re just decorations in our daily consumer experience? And are there products that we just simply don’t need to connect with?

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/ Darryl Parker

    Jason,

    We are compiling a list of the “Pepsi 25″ so that those interested in social media can learn more about the people Pepsi chose to receive the package. My thought was that you guys might have some things us newbies could learn. http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/

    Thanks!

    Darryl

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Wow. Thanks Darryl. I know a few folks who also received the packages. I'll jump over and see who else is there. Thanks for providing the link and for collecting. If I know of anyone else I don't see, I'll let you know.

      • http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/ Darryl Parker

        Thanks Jason!

  • http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/ Darryl Parker

    Jason,

    We are compiling a list of the “Pepsi 25″ so that those interested in social media can learn more about the people Pepsi chose to receive the package. My thought was that you guys might have some things us newbies could learn. http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/

    Thanks!

    Darryl

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    hey jason – did they ask for your address beforehand? did you know this was coming in the mail? i'm curious how they did this…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yes, Adam, they did. Bonin and I met at Blog World Expo this year. He asked if I would be interested in something Pepsi was doing. I immediately told him I was probably the single-largest consumer of Diet Pepsi on the planet and would love to. He got my card, followed up with an email and then sent the package. There was no expectation for me to do anything, no ask to blog, etc. It was all quite surprise-and-delight oriented. Well done.

      • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

        i see – they did that right btw, never *ask* someone to blog about it (that is how i always do promotions when we give bloggers swag ;)

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    hey jason – did they ask for your address beforehand? did you know this was coming in the mail? i'm curious how they did this…

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Wow. Thanks Darryl. I know a few folks who also received the packages. I'll jump over and see who else is there. Thanks for providing the link and for collecting. If I know of anyone else I don't see, I'll let you know.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Yes, Adam, they did. Bonin and I met at Blog World Expo this year. He asked if I would be interested in something Pepsi was doing. I immediately told him I was probably the single-largest consumer of Diet Pepsi on the planet and would love to. He got my card, followed up with an email and then sent the package. There was no expectation for me to do anything, no ask to blog, etc. It was all quite surprise-and-delight oriented. Well done.

  • http://www.parkerweb.com/blog/ Darryl Parker

    Thanks Jason!

  • KatFrench

    What I really want to know is…

    WHY are you bogarting all the free Pepsi? There are other thirsty people in the office, man.

    Seriously, though, I keep coming back to the same problem. Aside from the coolness that is free stuff, where's the axis of conversation?

    Although it does give me an idea for a potentially really funny video…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      They're collector's items. Deal with it. Perks of being the boss. Heh.

  • KatFrench

    What I really want to know is…

    WHY are you bogarting all the free Pepsi? There are other thirsty people in the office, man.

    Seriously, though, I keep coming back to the same problem. Aside from the coolness that is free stuff, where's the axis of conversation?

    Although it does give me an idea for a potentially really funny video…

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  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    i see – they did that right btw, never *ask* someone to blog about it (that is how i always do promotions when we give bloggers swag ;)

  • http://www.shapeourbrand.com www.shapeourbrand.com

    We've been keeping up to date with all of Pepsi's new branding efforts and while I personally am not a huge fan of the logo, i must commend their social networking strategies with “Big Bloggers” within the internet community. We too, at http://www.shapeourbrand.com, are initiating a very similar effort. While on a smaller scale, we still want input from all voices in the blogsphere. So we ask you to help us shape our brand so can better shape our clients.

    http://www.shapeourbrand.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I checked it out. Interesting. Sign your name next time, but you're welcome to leave links. Thanks.

  • http://www.shapeourbrand.com www.shapeourbrand.com

    We've been keeping up to date with all of Pepsi's new branding efforts and while I personally am not a huge fan of the logo, i must commend their social networking strategies with “Big Bloggers” within the internet community. We too, at http://www.shapeourbrand.com, are initiating a very similar effort. While on a smaller scale, we still want input from all voices in the blogsphere. So we ask you to help us shape our brand so can better shape our clients.

    http://www.shapeourbrand.com

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    They're collector's items. Deal with it. Perks of being the boss. Heh.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I checked it out. Interesting. Sign your name next time, but you're welcome to leave links. Thanks.

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    WOW, 10-20 cans a day?!?! Everyone says I drink too much soda and I'm at a few 20oz bottles or a 2 liter bottle per day or so. But, part of that is that I purposely limit how much I have around or else I wouldn't drink anything else.

    Besides that, I think it's great what Pepsi is doing and that is exactly why they brought Bonin in. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Bonin at BWE and he's a very cool guy and will do well over there. What I like the most about what they did is sending out the other can designs as well…I just think that's a neat idea! :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yeah, I'm a DP-aholic. I drink it like a lot of people drink coffee. Have for years.

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    WOW, 10-20 cans a day?!?! Everyone says I drink too much soda and I'm at a few 20oz bottles or a 2 liter bottle per day or so. But, part of that is that I purposely limit how much I have around or else I wouldn't drink anything else.

    Besides that, I think it's great what Pepsi is doing and that is exactly why they brought Bonin in. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Bonin at BWE and he's a very cool guy and will do well over there. What I like the most about what they did is sending out the other can designs as well…I just think that's a neat idea! :)

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  • http://www.tarametblog.com Tara

    I like the fact that Pepsi is sweeter too– don't change the formula is right.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen, sister.

  • http://www.tarametblog.com Tara

    I like the fact that Pepsi is sweeter too– don't change the formula is right.

  • http://nextcommunications.blogspot.com/ Vedo

    Jason – it has really been interesting for me to follow along the various bloggers who received the Pepsi shipments and how each of you have reacted via posts. I will admit to being intrigued and impressed at the effort on Pepsi's part. I find new branding concepts to be at best fascinating and at worst awful, but always at least worth noting.

    That said, it is hard for me to imagine how the effort will change behaviors. Simply put, I prefer the taste of Coke (Coke Zero to be exact) and no amount of repackaging of Pepsi will interest me on what's on the inside. I'm not sure why you would even want to tell others about your favorite soft drink since it's so subjective and impossible to quantify aside from market share, but to that I would say, “so what, I'll still drink what I like.”

    Another example I find to be similar in saturation of the market is with beer. Bottom-line, I *connect* with these products by putting the can to my lips, nothing more, nothing less. (A little more than my $0.02)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Richie. That's kind of my point. The big brand ubiquitousness of consumer product goods almost makes them so everyday and taken for granted, there's nothing interesting to engage them with or for. While I do think some things (causes, events, celebrities) can add to a conversation point, they aren't really about the product or brand.

      I would say that I think beer is more of an exploratory category, though. I'm always on the lookout for a new, better tasting beer. Can't say that for soda, though. Still, i can see where a Bud drinker is just a Bud drinker and that's that.

      You're right, though. No amount of logo finagling can make the stuff taste better.

    • KatFrench

      I do think that there's a certain amount of “badging” behavior associated with soft drinks, and especially for the youth market, a lot of peer influence involved.

      I just haven't fully figured out how they plan to connect the dots between that and the social web in a way that isn't as artificial as the sweeteners in Jason's daily fix.

      Like everyone, I'll be watching with interest (and trusty coffee mug in hand).

  • http://nextcommunications.blogspot.com/ Vedo

    Jason – it has really been interesting for me to follow along the various bloggers who received the Pepsi shipments and how each of you have reacted via posts. I will admit to being intrigued and impressed at the effort on Pepsi's part. I find new branding concepts to be at best fascinating and at worst awful, but always at least worth noting.

    That said, it is hard for me to imagine how the effort will change behaviors. Simply put, I prefer the taste of Coke (Coke Zero to be exact) and no amount of repackaging of Pepsi will interest me on what's on the inside. I'm not sure why you would even want to tell others about your favorite soft drink since it's so subjective and impossible to quantify aside from market share, but to that I would say, “so what, I'll still drink what I like.”

    Another example I find to be similar in saturation of the market is with beer. Bottom-line, I *connect* with these products by putting the can to my lips, nothing more, nothing less. (A little more than my $0.02)

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Yeah, I'm a DP-aholic. I drink it like a lot of people drink coffee. Have for years.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen, sister.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Richie. That's kind of my point. The big brand ubiquitousness of consumer product goods almost makes them so everyday and taken for granted, there's nothing interesting to engage them with or for. While I do think some things (causes, events, celebrities) can add to a conversation point, they aren't really about the product or brand.

    I would say that I think beer is more of an exploratory category, though. I'm always on the lookout for a new, better tasting beer. Can't say that for soda, though. Still, i can see where a Bud drinker is just a Bud drinker and that's that.

    You're right, though. No amount of logo finagling can make the stuff taste better.

  • KatFrench

    I do think that there's a certain amount of “badging” behavior associated with soft drinks, and especially for the youth market, a lot of peer influence involved.

    I just haven't fully figured out how they plan to connect the dots between that and the social web in a way that isn't as artificial as the sweeteners in Jason's daily fix.

    Like everyone, I'll be watching with interest (and trusty coffee mug in hand).

  • http://danielhonigman.com dan360man

    I have to say, that is some really cool packaging.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com dan360man

    I have to say, that is some really cool packaging.

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Daniel_Honigman

    I have to say, that is some really cool packaging.

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    pepsi max is where it is at!!