I Feel Like A Pepsi, But That’s All

by Jason Falls |

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.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).