Pepsi's social-media juggernaut continues this year with a focus on applying social efforts to the smaller brands in its portfolio.
Speaking Thursday at MediaPost Communications' OMMA Social day-long forum, Bonin Bough, director of digital and social media at PepsiCo, said the company has become the biggest sponsor of some of the largest digital events, including BlogHer, Blogworld, SXSW, and Internet Week NY, where it has 125 people on staff.
"At SXSW, we did things with social communicators, and had a mini-army of PepsiCo folks doing internal blogs so the entire organization is participating on some level. In the beginning, when we started going to these, it was about building competency of listening, and bringing that into the organization."
The company last week launched PepsiCo 10, designed to bring in new ideas via an open call for partners among emerging tech companies.
Bough also established a "Mission Control Center" for Gatorade that takes the brand's pulse 24/7. The center, which looks very much like a NASA control room, tracks in real time analytics for campaigns, Web sites, or social channels. Bough says the focus is on creating the largest sports brand in the world and one that goes beyond the liquid product.
"The question is," he said, "how do we create this in terms of real time insights?" The center has six monitors and five people across different functions. "We are asking how do we create a Petri dish for discovering what new technology will mean to the brand; how do we challenge existing realities?"
Per Bough, a company's willingness to experiment on both a large and small scale implies a willingness to fail on occasion, something with which Pepsi is well-acquainted. "If you visit our headquarters, the walls are lined with products and packaging that didn't work," he said.
Recent such experiments include a Twitter and TV media strategy for the one-off Pepsuber ad during this year's Super Bowl. "We ran in isolation of paid digital media," he said of the effort. "All we did was Twitter and drove nearly the same amount of traffic [as with paid digital]. Just with Twitter. I believe in doing small experiments and rolling them out in a big way."
He noted that the Trop50 program started as a partnership with BlogHer, which has a combined reach of 15 million unique visitors. The company created The Juice online community around a "More of what you want, less of what you don't" theme.
"We tracked versus traditional to see if we could prove that if we co-create something with a community around health, family, and relationships, we could improve brand awareness, equity and volume. When we looked at digital metrics, it was through the roof."
Bough said PepsiCo is going to start a program this year wherein consumers who scan bar codes on PepsiCo products via smartphones will get content about the brand or corporate goodwill programs.