Remember the Pepsi Challenge? Launched in the mid-Seventies, it was a blind taste test, heavily used in Pepsi's TV advertising, in which participants invariably would pick Pepsi over Coke as the better-tasting cola. It spoke directly to relevant brand equities that helped Pepsi-Cola mount a rising challenge to Coca-Cola over subsequent decades.
Well, there’s a new Pepsi Challenge in town. But it has nothing to do with taste-testing, cola or even Pepsi per se. As part of PepsiCo’s ever-expansive Pepsi Refresh community-revitalization project, Pepsi Challenge is now the name of an online activity that encourages users to submit ideas and weigh in with solutions.
The idea is to have Pepsi Challenge “provide inspiration on different topics each month, encouraging fun ideas to refresh communities,” in keeping with the crowdsourced spirit of the Refresh initiative, as Ana Maria Irazabal, Pepsi’s brand-marketing director, told Popsop.com.
At a time of slipping market share for its flagship beverage, the company has said that it plans significant new advertising investments behind the brand this year.
But as PepsiCo pumps another $20 million or so into the second year of Pepsi Refresh, Irazabal’s statements make it clear that, for ROI from this particular project, they’re rather keeping their eye on soft targets such as “consumer engagement,” participation in “a culture of participation,” access to “the mindset and optimism of American millennials,” and “challenging the next generation to tell us what they care about and dare to make a difference.”
Is it working? Irazabal is sure only of the growing exposure of and interest in Pepsi Refresh. Last year, she told Popsop, it “activated 29,000 new volunteers, directly changed the lives of 148,000 people, and awarded over $2 million to 61 grantees.” It also, she said, has twice higher awareness compared with similar cause-marketing campaigns.
All that Irazabal could say about whether Refresh helps sell its branded range of sodas was that, last year, there was an “increase in Pepsi’s key brand health metrics,” including “intent to purchase among millennials.”
Expanded marketing behind standard Pepsi and related products such as Pepsi Max may yet boost the brand’s bottom line this year. And Pepsi Refresh apparently will keep chugging along as the brand's flagship corporate citizenship commitment.