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Pepsi's Mobile Strategy: It's the Content, Stupid

  |  May 20, 2014   |  Comments

Bringing ads to mobile still means giving people something they want to watch, says Frank Cooper III, Pepsi's global chief marketing officer of consumer engagement.

Pepsi may be the brand behind Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and Britney Spears, but mobile users today couldn't care less about that, according to Frank Cooper III, Pepsi's global chief marketing officer of consumer engagement.

"People don't care about the history of your brand. Are you delivering something meaningful to them today?" Cooper said in his keynote speech, presented as a fireside chat, at the Mobile Media Upfront held in New York City this week.

In the context of mobile users, that means one of two things, according to Cooper: providing compelling entertainment or useful information, depending on where the user is and what they are doing.

In the entertainment category, Pepsi has always been ambitious. Brands should be asking themselves how to compete with the best entertainment out there, according to Cooper, instead of focusing on being a "pre-roll" advertisement ahead of a mobile video. "I want to be the video that people want to watch," he noted.

Cooper cited Pepsi's new multi-channel World Cup-themed "Beats of the Beautiful Game" project as illustrative of this philosophy.

Pepsi has produced an album of 11 original songs, from artists including Janelle Monae, Kelly Rowland, and R3hab, as well as 11 short films from big names like Spike Lee, Diego Luna, and Idris Elba. (The songs will be gradually launched on iTunes ahead of the album's release.)

An interactive video, set to the tune of Monae singing David Bowie's "Heroes" and featuring soccer figures including Robin van Persie, David Luiz, Sergio Ramos, and Leo Messi, lets users click and change the story. There's also video content exclusive for mobile users as well as an app where they can play an augmented reality soccer game.

"This is much more the model on mobile," Cooper said. "It should be less interruptive. If we can get the pre-rolls where people enjoy watching them," that could develop, he noted.

Admittedly, few marketers have the kind of budget to take entertainment to this level. They may relate more to the second level Cooper mentioned, using mobile devices to provide useful information to users based on information about their location and needs.

"You want to get the shopper in-store at the point of decision, not to interrupt them but to deliver something of value, whether it is a bit of information or a discount," said Cooper.

Pepsi is experimenting with how to improve the mobile experience across the supply chain for its products by mapping the indoor retail space, he said, though he didn't provide details. But this is still just in the pioneering phase.

Cooper said there's still a long way to go in mobile both on the data side (in making sense of the large amount of information that mobile phones give off) as well as changing the mindset of the media industry.

"There's a whole ecosystem designed around TV. Agencies routed in TV lack the skill-set and mindset to operate in mobile. We are trying to push the change and a large part of that is trying to get more digital natives in-house," commented Cooper. 

He concluded: "You need to find people native to the space creating content and changing the way the brand moves in that space. Digital has to become the new center of gravity for the entire company."


Mary Lisbeth  D'Amico

Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.

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