Pepsi is more interested in talking with the voices of a new generation than run ads during Super Bowl XLIV. The cola giant is replacing their popular Super Bowl ads with cause-based social media. Putting this in perspective, the last time there was a Super Bowl without a Pepsi ad, John Elway and Phil Simms were the quarterbacks, the half time show was done by high school students and the New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos.
Risk-Taking or Innovating?
DM News reports that the soft-drink company “will inject $20 million into its cause-related Refresh [Everything] Project that helps people improve their communities through a variety of projects funded by the marketer.”
The RefreshEverything.com web site, slated to officially launch on January 13th, says “We’re looking for people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact. Look around your community and think about how you want to change it.”
They are using a social media strategy that is, in some way, scalable to nearly every business.
They are reaching out to communicate where their customers “live” online, and that means Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed and other social media sites. They are talking about something to which you, the individual, are passionate about. The “You” part will be a much bigger element in many marketing programs of all sizes in the future.
This Time, It’s Personal.
Their plan hits several touchstones of social media: First, they know what their message is, and they know it lives well in the word-of-mouth social space. They know their potential audience is anyone who gets thirsty and has a desire for a better community. Second, they are creating a reason for you to reach out to them. They will be on many social media sites to make it easier for YOU. You’ll both have something in common to talk about that IS NOT the product (the interesting and potent twist) – and they are looking to use their resources to help (some of) you.
Pepsi appears to understand that they are talking to people, and this is a huge point that scares many larger companies away from social media. By allowing their people to talk a bit about their lives and let their personalities show on social sites shows they are people. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh may have said it best: “People relate to people, not companies.”
The third part of this strategy is using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to manage the vast number of people who want to make a difference in their community. They should be able to record your online “personae”: basic likes, dislikes and interests in a meaningful way. They should be able to speak to you on your terms. No hard sell, they just want become more relevant to you than any other beverage choice. In this way, they may well be breaking new ground with the old word-of-mouth campaigns.
Be Known As A Mensch
Literally, being a “Mensch” means being a “person.” In cyberspace, you need to be “a person.” It has come to mean a person with integrity. This point is worth repeating and understanding.
In my mind, this is not a risk for Pepsi unless they become greedy or careless with privacy, something I believe they know. Since last year’s sponsorship of South by Southwest (SXSW), the major social media and web tradeshow, they’ve learned “how to do/how not to do” from many different people and companies. A few smart people were able to communicate how simple (and difficult) talking to people really can be. Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer, but it is a difficult idea for many bright people to get their head wrapped around. The dwindling numbers of people who do not use social media are like those people who were sure that this Internet thing will never catch on with “normal people.”
The floodgates are going to open and nearly every business will want to do the Pepsi thing. False prophets are waiting for your money to help you talk at your customers. The rest of us will talk WITH each other, like PEOPLE do.
Pepsi took more than a year to plan this. It is integrated within their marketing plan. It’s been decided that they would rather be talked about in a positive light by millions than have their ad seen by millions of people, even it is the Super Bowl.
It’s a defining moment in marketing and advertising. Let’s watch.