Today we kick off a 4-part post-Super Bowl analysis series by Vancouver-based Jason Chong, who covers the beverage industry for both BevWire and Canadian Grocer. With previous experience in the non-alcoholic segment of the industry, he maintains a keen pulse on the marketing aspects of beverages. We welcome his contributions here on BevReview, starting with a look at Pepsi's involvement with this year's Big Game.
The Super Bowl has always been an important time for Pepsi, much like how Christmas has been an important time for Coca-Cola. Relative to previous years, Pepsi has significantly stepped up their investment culminating to this year's sponsored halftime show. Pepsi's newly signed artist – Beyonce – performed at the event as winners of a crowd-sourced engagement contest welcomed her to the stage. As companies invite the public to submit ideas, they are releasing more control of the branded content to their customers. Is this really a good idea, given many examples of where this has gone wrong? In addition, did the contest generate the desired results, and lead to a longer lasting impact that extends beyond the halftime show and Super Bowl event?
Pepsi as a company is not new to crowd-sourcing content, having tried this tactic in the past with Mountain Dew as well as Doritos. These two efforts for crowd-sourcing branded content has provided lessons that Pepsi has hopefully learned and applied. Doritos asked regular consumers to submit creative and funny commercials that will be voted on and aired for the Super Bowl. In the marketing realm, this initiative was viewed as a major success and led to other companies asking the general public for ideas. Varying degrees of success and failures ensued. Chevrolet tried it with a "Make Your Own Tahoe" effort in 2007 and failed miserably as "content providers" essentially roasted the automaker for producing a gas guzzler. Pitbull crowd-sourced for a concert and appearance at an American Walmart location which backfired into having the artist go to Alaska. Even Pepsi's effort to "Dub the Dew" backfired when people gamed the system into submitted names detrimental to what Mountain Dew would have envisioned. The lesson to be learnt here is that while the rewards are plentiful if done right, the risks of poor execution and having the tactic backfire may be greater.
Save for Beyonce's recent lip-syncing incident, there has not been much negative media related to Pepsi, Beyonce, or their collaborative Super Bowl element. While there are certainly negative things that can be said about Pepsi (i.e. sugary content, calorie content, etc), none of this is exclusive to Pepsi. That is, if Coca-Cola ran a similar campaign, it would have achieved a similar result. Pepsi and Beyonce are not polarizing entities, so neither would invite much negativity. At the end of it all, it looks like this initiative has been well-executed and has not faced the complications that others encountered through these types of marketing campaigns. It also helps that Beyonce put on a great show that had many people raving about it afterwards as one of the best halftime performances they have seen in a while.
Whether this initiative will lead to a longer lasting impact than the Super Bowl is still to be determined. For example, have you spent more money on Doritos since those commercials aired? Would you have bought that bag of chips even if there was no commercial before? Did Pepsi spend advertising dollars to essentially subsidize your purchase? The investment for this halftime show is significant, as the cost to air the crowd-sourced introduction is estimated to be $4 million (and cost of producing has not even been considered yet).
Therefore, despite the subsidy, Pepsi ensures that you choose them when you are considering your next beverage purchase in the shopping aisle. Running the ad during the Super Bowl only guarantees that there are more eyeballs seeing their commercial, but may not translate to an immediate impact, let alone a longer term impact. However, running the contest to engage and getting consumers involved with the process will undoubtedly make them feel more a part of the beverage brand. Having Beyonce on the can as a collectible also helps jog the viewer's memory when they are considering their next purchase as well. And this certainly gives Pepsi a better chance to your choosing them when you are thinking of your next soft drink purchase.
Photos via Pepsi.com Press Releases