Pepsi’s New Populism

Pepsi commercials will not be seen in the Super Bowl this year.  After 23 years of Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears, et al, dating back to when the Giants beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, Pepsi is opting to reorient its marketing platform to “be less about a singular event and more about a movement” according to spokesperson, Nicole Bradley.  Since the decision was made, Pepsi has poured more than $20 million into its “Refresh Project” that allows participants to vote for community-worthy projects originated by regular folks who submit their ideas online.  See  The current leader board reflects an array of social aims including caring for troops, improving education, and several ‘green’ initiatives.  Both for-profit and non-profit groups can apply.  Pepsi is spawning its own network of civic entrepreneurs.

The execs at Pepsi aren’t stupid, although as you might expect, Coke is stepping into the big game with a campaign on “open happiness” (whatever that means).  Pepsi has very adroitly measured the sense of populist discontent in the country and aims to capitalize on it while utilizing the convergence of people, media, and issues to extend their brand.  Big $, big-bang media is giving way to an organic process of self-identification and self-executing regimes that produce empathic and objective-oriented networks, which effectively work around the epidemic of ineptitude plaguing our national, state and local governments.  Maybe the follow-up campaign will be Pepsi is the Power of the People.

Pepsi is banking on marketing gains that are won referentially as a by-product of empowering people around ideas that matter and that have a high likelihood of frequent and enduring participation.  This represents a more subtle and artful form of persuasion, but may prove to be much more effective (and efficient) than three million dollar thirty-second commercials performed by this year’s starlet.  The new Pepsi Generation may usher us Boomers to the ash heap of history right along with our tie-dye shirts and pinstripe suits.  Or, Pepsi may be right back next year, advertising in Super Bowl XLV, hosted by Mr. Jones at Jerry World on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.