A few weeks ago, one of the most re-tweeted links among us marketing geeks was The Onion‘s article claiming “Pepsi to Cease Advertising.” The article is a classic, hilarious piece from the online newspaper equivalent of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, and many of us had a short chuckle and went back to work. But on second thought, maybe this article isn’t so crazy after all….
This week I got to spend some time with Frederic Colas, Chief Strategic Officer for giant European digital agency, FullSIX. We both are former P&G guys who left to take similar roles in digital agencies. We were talking about our concept of Marketing with Meaning, and Frederic brought up this Onion article as something that was suggesting what meaningful marketing is all about: dumping the traditional, interruptive model and moving all funds to something that consumers actually care about. As Frederic wisely said, “Any good satire has a kernel of truth and believability.”
So what if Pepsi started from scratch on its marketing budget and adopted an entirely new approach? What if it decided that the purpose of its marketing was not to simply remind people that the brand exists, is refreshing, and is something that celebrities love to (get paid to) drink?
What if, instead, the brand chose to put its marketing dollars into something that its consumers choose to engage with, and marketing that itself adds value to people’s lives? Imagine what the company could do to inject joy into people’s lives through marketing, rather than mentally brainwashing them into thinking that a sip of Pepsi will produce said joy. By creating real joy, Pepsi has a much better chance of earning loyalty beyond reason for life. As for where to put these dollars, I envision everything from social gaming to enormous global cause projects.
Pepsi certainly could use something different. Revenue for PepsiCo fell by 1.5% in the most recent quarter, which was worse than analysts expected. Brands such as Gatorade have struggled as the old model of catchy ad campaigns have failed in this new economy with this new consumer. On the other hand, the beverage unit could learn and embed lessons that are coming from its Frito-Lay division, where brands such as Doritos and SunChips are experiencing sales growth and tighter consumer bonds through meaningful marketing.
I wonder what the conversations were in the halls of PepsiCo when this article made the rounds through email. If even a handful of its marketers paused to consider this article as a possibility, then the seeds of revolution might have been sown.