Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pepsi Refresh Everything

What are people becoming a fan of? In the case of Pepsi’s huge good-marketing campaign, seems like people are fans of Pepsi giving money to charities. They’re fans of making the world a better place.

Are they fans of Pepsi cola as a thirst-quenching liquid?

In an industry of absolute parity, maybe that doesn’t matter so much. With a hammer this large, maybe relevance isn’t an issue.

Pepsi’s crowdsourcing, voting, consumer involvement, use of social (Facebook and well beyond) is all fantastic. Their giving strategy is so broad, it’s all-encompassing.

Does it have anything to do with selling a can of soda?

Does it need to?

Pepsi is giving away $1.3 million in grants each month, to non-profits in six categories. Health. Arts & Culture. Food & Shelter. The Planet. Neighborhoods. Education.

They’ve partnered with GOOD Magazine, and some other, more functional, charity-related organizations. This gives them credibility, as does their alliances with the non-profit community, and transparent dialogue with customers and bloggers.

They’re doing this right.

Funny thing. They’re getting tons of buzz in two areas: social media, and non-profits.

Have they stepped away from their role in the mainstream? Away from teens and the “new generation?” That’s always been what Pepsi is all about, right?

They’ve obviously recognized that doing good is a huge trend with the younger generation; it’s important to them. And Pepsi sees how it’s a much more meaningful bond to have with their customers than, say, Michael J Fox.

Smaller companies can’t spread themselves this thin, by adopting a strategy this broad, donating to “everything.” (“What should our charitable focus be?” … “I know. How about ‘everything’?”)

For most companies, the challenge (and opportunity) is to choose a narrow cause that aligns with their purpose, and their customers’ beliefs.

And any company, even Pepsi, has an opportunity to somehow tie their Good program into moving units.

The fact that an organization as huge as Pepsi has chosen to get behind the Good thing in such a huge way speaks volumes.

For advertisers, it may be another signpost on the road away from ads that are “merely entertaining.” (No small feat, that.)

This builds community, engages people, gets people talking and spreading the program on their own. The earned media exposure on this is un-buyably huge.

In the ‘60s, the medium was the message. Today, the consumer is the media. People themselves are one of the most potent communication channels. (And of course social media is a huge way to activate and influence the conversation.)

I’ve read a lot of knee-jerk reactions in the blogosphere about this campaign, but one stood out. Joanne Fritz of the Nonprofits Charitable Blog on noted some nice aspects of Pepsi’s execution. 1) it’s not only on a closed site like Facebook (though I like how it also uses Facebook), 2) it’s understandable, 3) it pays attention to outcomes, 4) the grants come in several sizes, 5) there’s a new opportunity every month.

As Bonin Bough, Global Director for Digital and Social Media at PepsiCo says, (unlike other contests)
The Refresh Project “is a movement, not a moment.”

He also says, “never before has a trusted brand engaged in the work of doing social good with the level of resources behind the Pepsi Refresh Project.”

So. Pepsi is giving away $20 million. For little local charities, that’s a lot. But for Pepsi, that’s a drop in the bucket. In this case, a very well-placed drop. I'm reading: Pepsi Refresh EverythingTweet this!

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