Thursday, November 5

Crowd-Sourcing Responsibility: Pepsi


As a marketer, PepsiCo appears lost. As a company, it might be in trouble.

While there is something to be said for experimentation, PepsiCo has canned more marketing misses than hits in the last year. In an effort to continually target the next generation, it seems to have forgotten how to be a business. In fact, if it wasn't for its salty snack holdings being considered a staple, we suspect its fizzy drink section might start to dry up.

In some ways, it has. In October, PepsiCo Americas Beverages unit reported a 6 percent drop in volume and a 9 percent revenue decline. According to some analysts, the result reflects a change in buying habits as consumers shifted toward juices and teas and away from soft drinks. That might be true, but 6 percent is twice the drop experienced by Coca-Cola.

Marketing Mistakes Are Clubbing PepsiCo

In most circumstances, we think it's great when companies turn to crowd-sourcing for a single campaign. It helps many of them steer clear of isolated creative ideas that don't resonate with consumers.

PepsiCo has had its fair share of those: identity redesign, election revolution, Tropicana rebrand, iPhone app, and, well, you get the idea. (All of it might not be so bad if it wasn't for its negative publicity, but there has been some of that too.)

So, in an effort to put its product marketing back on track, Pepsi is pushing to try something new. It will put the reigns of creative control in the hands of consumers who will be charged in choosing which advertising agencies will handle three product launches. Say what?

In a contest beginning this month, Mtn Dew (Montain Dew for those unimpressed with the stylized abbreviation) will hand off marketing duties, at least temporarily, for a $100 million-plus business to several potentially unknown players selected by consumers. The concept, if you can call it that, is an extension of DEWmocracy, which allowed consumers to determine the flavor, color, packaging, and names of the new products.

"If we're going to have a dialogue with consumers and have consumers play a role in dictating the future of our brand, they've got to play a role in all aspects of it," Brett O'Brien, Mtn Dew's director of marketing, told AdAge. (One commenter on the article suggested they open up marketing director recruitment to crowd-sourcing too.)

Crowd-sourcing Runs Amuck With Pepsi

While Mtn Dew will retain BBDO Worldwide, which was part of DEWmocracy from the beginning, the agency will not comment on the process. For the efforts of DEWmocracy, Beverage Digest reports Mtn Dew is one of the few soft-drink successes, with a volume increase of 1 percent. However, it's unclear if DEWmocracy had much to do with it despite what's being said.

In some cases, DEWmocracy consumers seem to be experiencing brand fatigue, with drop off at each stage of the contest concept. (Some people even speculate that Pepsi stacked the odds for the company favorite.) On Facebook, every few posts also contain consumer comments that lament over the loss of their top choice. ("Any chance to bring Pitch Black back?"). And like many social media efforts, the fans are mostly left on their own, which is usually a mistake.

That's not to say that outsourcing the creative selection process to consumers is all bad. It clearly makes the marketing department not responsible for the $100 million decision. It truly leaves the consumers in control of the product, which means their relationship to the contest and each other may supersede any relationship with the product. It also places an emphasis on "I like it" advertising, which is best described as a three-second knee jerk reaction, without considering things like, er, sales.

Of course, there is always the chance that the finalists will not only be good, but be better than a one hit wonder. They'll almost have to be better once Pepsi funds the three finalists to produce a :15 TV DEW spot (assuming oversight doesn't dampen their spirits). And, they might also do better than what pushed Mtn Dew to this point before settling on Distortion, WhiteOut, and Typhoon as product names.

Anything is possible, right? We'll see. If nothing else, DEWmocracy makes for an interesting case study in consumer crowd-sourcing despite its similarity to gambling at a roulette wheel. Then again, we suppose it couldn't get any worse compared to some of the other company's marketing mishaps of late.

4 comments:

Rich on 11/5/09, 2:53 PM said...

More words:

@tweetdana sent me another example of crowd-sourcing run amuck. This time from Kraft Australia.

http://tiny.cc/vQXww

It makes you wonder. Maybe consumers don't always want to be marketers.

Best,
Rich

skdd on 11/6/09, 1:40 AM said...

When we were growing up we drank Pepsi. After I married I began drinking Coke. Pepsi out of the tall bottles was wonderful. I left a message for you in the shout box. I also made cookies. Photos are up.

Rich on 11/6/09, 5:26 AM said...

Theresa,

Ha. I wish I could take the cookies to class.

I miss those tall bottles. Back then, Pepsi was as iconic as Coke. Today, it seems less than.

Best,
Rich

Rich on 11/7/09, 9:47 AM said...

More words;

Whoa. It looks like PepsiCo has finally found a little luck. The default judgment that required PepsiCo to pay $1.26B to two men who claimed the soft-drink giant stole their idea for bottled water was overturned today by a Wisconsin court. Update.

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