• October 13, 2010
  • By Juan Martinez, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

What Makes Pepsi's Digital Marketing So Refreshing?

SAN FRANCISCO — Looking for evidence of a top-notch social campaign? Look no further than the Pepsi Refresh Project.

When PepsiCo decided this year to forego the customary Super Bowl advertising for its Pepsi line of soft drinks, many industry observers were surprised. But the real shock was what the company pursued instead: a $20 million social media campaign that enabled people to submit and campaign for ideas (proposals to "refresh" their communities), and then empowered the public to vote among the submitted proposals.

Twenty million dollars may seem like a lot of five-cent deposits, but the company says participation levels since the campaign's January 2010 launch have been tremendous:

  • 7,500 submitted ideas;
  • more than 46 million people have voted for a project;
  • 256 projects received Pepsi Refresh Project grants; and
  • those projects are estimated to have reached over 200,000 people nationwide.

And that's just the snapshot after 9 months, according to Bonin Bough, PepsiCo's global director of digital and social media. In his "preconference" keynote address at the Digital Marketing Association's DMA2010 event, convening here this week, Bough announced the company's intent to expand Pepsi Refresh to Latin America, Europe, and Asia in 2011 — and shared some advice on how marketers can make their social media campaigns as fresh as Refresh.

[Editors' Note: Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez's blog coverage of rockstar Bret Michaels' appearance at #DMA2010 can be found here; his additional DMA2010 coverage can be found here and here.]

Bough opened his presentation, however, with a bit of self-deprecation. "I'm the lunch keynote," he told the audience, "which means I wasn't really good enough just to be 'The Keynote.' The other day, I was at a conference and there was a keynote, a lunch keynote, a post-keynote keynote. My prediction is that [one day] conferences will be all keynotes."

Getting down to business, Bough described PepsiCo's corporate ethos of "performance with purpose" (PWP) — and explained how the company's PWP commitment convinced him to sign on. PWP, according to Bough, means investing in a healthier future for the planet and its inhabitants. "You can create sustainable businesses," he said, "only if you make sustainability core to your businesses."

The same dedication is required for digital marketing, Bough said: Your digital campaigns can only be a success if you've made digital core to your business. And thanks to the digital capabilities of what Bough referred to as our "society of participation," companies can now leverage consumer involvement in experimentation — the kind of experimentation that evolves into a campaign as unique as Refresh.

Referencing an article in The Atlantic Monthly that asked "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," Bough explained how businesses can capitalize on the way technology has rewired society — and what to do in anticipation of the day when society will be 100 percent connected. The day isn't as far off as one might expect: In the United States, Bough claimed, every single person who wants to be connected to the Internet is, with 85 percent of the population already within reach of broadband Internet access.

"The creation of simple interfaces has allowed each of us to use the Internet," Bough said, adding that, contrary to that rhetorical magazine headline, "Google might [actually] be making us smarter." What we should be concerned about, he said, is having too much of a good thing. "The challenge we're going to have is the immense amount of information and knowledge that we have access to," he told the crowd. "It's not just society that's being transformed, it's also business."

Moving beyond the Internet itself, Bough also noted the significance of mobile-device proliferation. Businesses will have to adapt faster than ever, he said, and will have to shift from "questions to connections." Brands have to think about how to put digital experimentation at the core of not just marketing but all business processes.

Technology and connectivity are emerging as "the core of society," Bough said — and that core "is ultimately going to become the core of us." One clear example of that transition, he said, can be seen in the emergence of iteration — a powerful tenet of technology — as an essential business process. Leading, forward-looking companies have developed processes for testing, learning, and applying learned knowledge on the fly, reducing or even eliminating any worry over releasing "perfected" products.

Bough said marketers should embrace iterative feedback as an element of marketing; after all, he told the crowd, good marketing "starts with listening."

The Digital Marketing Association describes DMA2010 as a three-day conference covering all marketing channels — from traditional to digital. The conference positions data and direct marketing as the underpinnings of any effort to enhance the user experience and maximize return on investment. The preconference events began on Saturday, Oct. 9, with official content beginning Monday, Oct. 11.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below. 

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