Pespi Refresh: good cause but what’s missing?

Sun, Feb 28, 2010

Bruce DeBoer, Editorials

There’s no faulting authentic cause marketing.   Doing the right thing by committing funds is inspiring.  A perfect example is the Ronald McDonald House supporting families of hospitalized children.  It represents everything we’d like a corporation to do with their profits: give some back to the community that buys the product.  All positive public relations are genuinely well deserved.

Pepsi Refresh feels similar.  The soft drink company uses the internet to field ideas and award favorites monthly with large sums of cash to finance a cause.  Excellent.  Spread the love and the goodness of a brand.  The Publicity is good; the causes are great and they used new social networking techniques to make it even more powerful – awesome.  Much better than a one run Superbowl networks 30 sec. spot.

Let’s take a moment to sincerely thank them for this approach.  Honest – no sarcasm intended but it’s hard to write this stuff without it sounding that way.

OK – that said, let me risk more by sounding overly cynical and ask about statistics regarding ROI for cause marketing.  It must be impossible to measure.  Maybe it’s not necessary to measure.  Building a brand by making members of a cause and their benefactors love it, how can that fail?  Pay it forward, right? Everyone will love Pepsi and buy their product because they’re doing the right thing. [Well, that’s a little sarcastic]

While Pepsi’s approach was inspired, it feels like a dead end and outside the brand to me.  Each cause is individually separate and disconnected from anything to do with Pepsi as a refreshment maker other than cash outlay, a brand mark, and a slogan.

I think about those times my parents gave me money for college.  I am eternally grateful but that’s not why I love them.  I also received a partial scholarship from someone but I’d have to go back and dig through papers to find out whom… I forget.  In fact, attach strings to payments and recipients may get resentful: a girlfriend’s Dad once offered $1000 to her for quitting cigarettes – you can guess how that turned out.

A better approach would be to create a product that inspired it’s own cause and its own marketing.  Let’s pretend Pepsi Co. created a delicious tablet that, when dropped in water would give a day’s worth of nutrition in a thirst quenching drink while simultaneously clearing foul water of harmful bacteria.

  • The tablet tasted better than sports drinks of the wealthiest fit minded communities.
  • The tablets are so effective that it could be distributed to earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile to help solve drinking water shortages.
  • Pepsi would be marketing the same tablet everywhere; one which would give 50% profits to groups dedicated to quench the thirst of the world.  [Insert Pepsi Refresh cause marketing here].
  • Track profits from areas of the globe and where they go through online mapping – create a competition between shopping segments – who can generate more thirst quenching for drought stricken areas.
  • Perhaps a live video feeds from the areas being helped or of people buying the product that will be shipped to the truly thirsty.

These thoughts are incomplete and raw but I think you get the idea.  Everything from the product to the financing to the cause and the outcome are all Pepsi.  The product is the marketing and everything to do with it perpetuates the brand and its thirst quenching essence.  It offers consumers something genuinely healthy to purchase and one that did good tangible things across the globe as well as an opportunity to pick up another Pepsi products sold next to the tablet while at the store.

I know, I know,  the tablet may be a technological fantasy but something isn’t that would fit the scheme.  I’m just sayin’ – Pepsi is doing good stuff but I think they missed an opportunity on this one.

Branding, Crowd Sourcing, Design Thinking, Innovation, marketing, Social Media

2 Responses to “Pespi Refresh: good cause but what’s missing?”

  1. edwardboches Says:

    Not sure I agree. Too soon to tell. What Pepsi is doing is the opposite of getting behind a cause. It’s getting behind its customers and its community. It’s thinking about consumers not as an audience but as participants and creators of value. We have to wait and see what people do with their grants. So far, interestingly, the only thing big about the program is, ironically, the advertising. We hear about the PRP through ads and promotions rather than the outcome. But this could be a long term idea that works. And credit to them for trying.

    • Bruce DeBoer Says:

      I can agree that we’ll have to wait and see but my money is on the campaign making a relatively small group happy, doing some really good stuff for causes but not selling more than a case of product. Most of those who know anything about it are marketing folks and those hoping to get money for their cause – not thirsty people.

      If you’re familiar with Lenovo’s http://www.nameyourdreamassignment.com/ I think Capstrat.com got it closer to right because they are engaging their target and creating buzz in the photographic community; one which they wanted to penetrate. I’m not sure they took it far enough but that’s for another post.


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