New Pepsi Generation Strategy Called On Track

Pepsi's latest innovations--to put out cans with designs that are constantly rotating and to invite consumers to help design a Pepsi billboard for Times Square--seem to be right on target, according to experts on trends and the behavior of teens, the demographic the soft-drink giant most wants to get back in the fold.

Jim Taylor--vice chairman of The Harrison Group, a Connecticut-based marketing, consulting and research company--says that the era of the celebrity (Jessica/Britney/Brad) is ending, and in its place, today's teens are more inner-focused and more focused on "brands that have design cues that identify with their peers."

Last week, the cola giant revealed the full details of a packaging and marketing strategy first unveiled in October.

Since Pepsi was invented in 1898, the company has changed its can design just 10 times, most recently in 1998. Now, Pepsi will rotate 35 designs--including snowboards, emoticons and disc jockeys--every few weeks on store shelves.



Taylor thinks Pepsi is hitting just the right chord. Today's teenager, he said, is "really brand responsive and pretty loyal. Their basis for brand preference is increasingly based on design artistry, where they express their aesthetic tastes. They're design sophisticated."

Teenagers, he cautioned, represent a "rotation of sophistication. At any one time you have one-fifth of them entering and one-fifth leaving" the demographic.

Taylor's most recent research plays out in Pepsi's other plan to give consumers a place to showcase designs of their own. In an online contest, consumers will be invited to upload designs for a Pepsi billboard. Those designs will be part of a virtual billboard canvas on the Web. At the end of the contest, Pepsi will choose one design to display in New York's Times Square. A Pepsi spokesperson said the company is still ironing out details.

Another marketer who studies consumer insights and trends agrees that Pepsi is on the mark with this idea as well.

"I love that they're going big with the Times Square billboard," Irma Zandl, principal of The Zandl Group. "It's not surprising, since sister company Frito-Lay is doing the consumer-generated Super Bowl ad.

"The idea is right on trend with the emergence of more consumer-generated content and creativity on such sites as MySpace and YouTube. For marketers, it creates a more dynamic dialogue with the consumer--and energizes their brands. It also taps into the consumers' need for celebrity and creative expression."

Harrison Group's Taylor agrees. "People--not just teenagers--are moving away from emotional branding and toward design and performance."

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