Pepsi Goes Social With The Challenge

A global, celebrity-infused and “socially led” Pepsi Challenge launches today with “challenges designed to galvanize consumers around the world to defy convention, make every moment — big or small — epic, and truly ‘Live for Now,’” according to a news release that hit CNW, the Canadian newswire, early this morning. An “interactive Multimedia News Release” — which, as far as we can tell, means that you can click on some videos or tweet hashtag PepsiChallenge —can be viewed here.

Pepsi is challenging consumers to “step out of [their] routine to do something different” in areas they are “passionate” about, such as technology, music, sports and design, we are informed.



Each challenge will be led by a “Pepsi ambassador,” whose ranks include Usher, the singer, songwriter, dancer and actor; Serena Williams, the tennis player; James Rodriquez, the soccer — er, futbol — star; Usain Bolt, the sprinter and six-time Olympic gold medalist; Nicola Formichetti, the designer and editor, and Jerome Jarre, the “mobile  storyteller and international social media phenomenon with the most followed Snapchat account in the world.”

As to what the actual challenges are, things are a little vague but include “an unprecedented, inaugural brand collaboration with UrtheCast, which is providing the world's first full-color Ultra High-Definition video camera” on board the International Space Station. It “will challenge live production conventions with the first-ever, epic film adventure shot from space.”

A presumably more conventional challenge will offer an  “opportunity for fans to re-envision the facade of a Pepsi can with their own creative designs and flair.”

There will also be “regionally relevant challenges designed to capture the authentic essence of their market,” according to the release. It cites “Crash the Pepsi IPL,” a three-month campaign challenging consumers in India to create and submit their own Pepsi ad for a chance to be aired during Indian Premier League games; regional food-focused challenges in Thailand, and a Latin America summer music challenge tied to La Gira Refrescante which, it may not surprise you, already has a relationship with the brand.

The original Pepsi Challenge, of course, was a series of commercials featuring a blind taste test where consumers inevitably chose the company’s branded sugar water over Coca-Cola, such as in this 1981 spot featuring the researcher/actor Gabe Kaplan. 

The company’s claim, first made in 1975, that “more than 50%” of those tested preferred its taste, was based on real market research conducted at malls, shopping centers and other public locations, as  WikiPedia informs us, of course. Your results may vary, as they did when Business Insiderconducted its own insider test a couple of years ago. The results: 62% of 21 staffers preferred Coke although only 50% correctly identified the brand they were drinking.

But, hey, there are “lies, damn lies and statistics,” right?  The fact is that the “Pepsi Challenge is an iconic piece of our brand equity and in many ways established our can-do attitude and spirit,” as Kristin Patrick, SVP and CMO of PepsiCo Global Beverage Brands, puts it. “When we talked to consumers around the globe about what challenge meant to them today, they resoundingly said that it entailed challenging convention and daring to do something differently.”

The New York Times’ Sidney Ember and Emily Steel, who have the story to themselves this morning, point out that “other marketers and media companies also have deployed a similar strategy, bringing back characters and ideas with built-in recognition. Pepsi’s arch-rival, Coca-Cola, for instance, recently announced a new yearlong campaign to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its iconic bottle. And there are, of course, the movie-franchise sequels that now dominate the box office.”

And then there are, of course, instances where the two converge. For example, there’s Spidey, who was a Dr Pepper kind of guy, last we knew.

In other PepsiCo news, CEO Indra Nooyi appeared on Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” as part of a 10th anniversary celebration of the show this week. Last month, Cramer called PepsiCo “the best consumer packaged goods company in the world right now.”

“I think the reason why PepsiCo has delivered so well is because we have a history of being very adaptable,” Nooyi told Cramer Monday. “We have changed the company when we needed to in anticipation of megatrends. We have had the courage to make all the right moves, and we have delivered.”

Now if they can only lure Peter Parker into the social web in time for “Amazing Spider-Man 3” and “Amazing Spider-Man 4.”

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