Q&A With Pepsi: Immersion Is Key To Digital Savvy
A just-released study from Atlanta-based customer-experience company Empathica says 60% of consumers now follow a brand via social media like Facebook or Twitter. The survey of 15,000 Americans and Canadians showed that people are "very willing" to follow brands, although most reported doing so in order to find coupons or deals. One in three recently followed through with a recommendation made via social platforms.
B. Bonin Bough would say those numbers are heading up fast. The director of social media for PepsiCo has driven efforts at the Purchase, N.Y.-based beverage giant to involve people in mixing and naming new formulations of Mountain Dew. The company has for the last year been running a social-media driven cause-marketing effort, Pepsi Refresh, and Bough is behind PepsiCo10, a program to fund startup digital firms with ideas valuable to PepsiCo's own efforts to stay current.
Bough -- who has written a new book, Perspectives on Social Media Marketing, with Stephanie Agresta, EVP, managing director of social media at Weber Shandwick -- spoke with Marketing Daily about making digital savvy part of corporate culture.
Q: What's the secret sauce for getting people in a company to understand social media and how to use it and stay current?
A: I'm putting emphasis on education of the organization. Look, if we are as a society capable of 100% digital connectedness, how do we start putting digital at the core of organizations if it's at the core of society? For companies that "grew up" digital, it's not only "nimbleness" -- and I think that's a cliché -- it's a way of thinking about how to operate within these channels that's just innate to everything they do.
So I think it's more about how do we take organizations that weren't grown of the digital ilk and still put that same philosophy and mentality within them. It's through culture and education.
Q: Do you do that best by bringing people in from outside? And isn't that sort of what PepsiCo10 is about: looking outside the organization to find people with ideas?
A: The first wave has been bringing in people with digital competency, but I think really that the next wave is bringing that education, knowledge and learning into the organization in a way that makes everybody competent.
Q: What is competence in this regard?
A: I guess my point is that most people can look at a TV commercial and have a gut reaction to whether it's good or bad. But if you look across the organization, not everybody can have that same gut reaction to a digital outreach. Digital will soon be more ubiquitous than TV. So how do we replicate the ability for people to have gut reactions toward digital across the organization? The win is not just bringing in experts from outside, but combining that with helping organizations learn across the employee force.
Q: How do you do it?
A: Some of the things I talk about in the book are creating those experiences inside organizations as often as you can. So how do we create repetition around emerging technologies for people who might not be spending their entire time on new media platforms? That's where programs like PepsiCo10 come in.
We brought in 20 emerging tech companies from across four strategic buckets. But we didn't have them just present to the marketing communications function -- we had them present to the entire organization, so the entire organization can see what the next six months of emerging technology might look like.
Q: How else besides PepsiCo10 are you trying to inject that digital "gut feeling" into the organization?
A: What we do on digital events is really interesting. If you look at an event like SXSW, which for all intents and purposes is the Davos of digital -- where every digital CEO comes to break news. If you look at the product development timelines and milestones, SXSW is a massive milestone in every single person's product development. It's what they do, where they go to launch.
Thus, every CEO across all these emerging technologies shows up there. So do we; for the last two years we have been running social experiences at SXSW -- at all of these digital events around the country -- where we bring people from across the organization from different functions, different roles, to actually come and experience SXSW.
They have clear objectives in terms of reporting on the event, on the things they learned. That gets back into the organization. The more we can bring experiences from those kinds of innovative events, the more we can create the opportunity for people to experience what's happening in these channels. And the more we can build that gut reaction.