Pepsi is bringing back the Pepsi Challenge, the iconic marketing campaign that began 40 years ago with a taste test between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, with a new digital and social twist meant to appeal to the much-sought-after Millennial demographic.
The initiative – “Live for Now,” which launched this week and will continue throughout the year – will consist of a series of challenges issued monthly by brand ambassadors via social media. The brand ambassadors are a group of influencers that include Usher, Serena Williams, and Jerome Jarre, the most followed person on Snapchat.
“When we talked to consumers around the globe about what ‘challenge’ meant to them today, they resoundingly said that it entailed challenging convention and daring to do something differently,” says Kristin Patrick, chief marketing officer at Pepsi. “We used that sentiment as our inspiration to create this cross-pollination of experiences, events, community, and social advocacy, designed to ignite a mindset that challenges the status quo, our fans ourselves.”
The challenges aim to appeal to the Millennial generation by combining popular culture with social media and social activism, along the lines of last summer’s omnipresent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
The first million times users hashtag #PepsiChallenge on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, the soft drink brand will donate $1 to Liter of Light, an organization that brings ecologically sustainable lighting solutions to developing countries. The charity mixes water and bleach in plastic soda bottles; when fitted through a roof, the solution refracts sunlight and provides roughly the same amount of light as a 40-watt incandescent bulb.
But not everyone is convinced that Pepsi’s new direction will resonate with consumers.
“For a product that’s really sparkly and fizzy, I think [the campaign] falls flat,” says Jeffrey Hayzlett, TV host and chairman of the C-Suite Network. “I think it’s taking a bunch of ideas from a whiteboard and meshing them together in order to put it under the Pepsi Challenge logo.”
While Hayzlett applauds Pepsi for being charitable, he doesn’t see how the involvement of celebrities, who are presumably being paid handsomely with money Pepsi could donate to Liter of Light directly, is necessary.
But on the other hand, Jarre has tweeted about the Pepsi Challenge twice since yesterday, using the hashtag both times. Combined, the two tweets have garnered more than 5,000 retweets.
“The best thing everyone can do is take the hashtag and tweet the living hell out of it,” Hayzlett says. “I think everyone is trying to make a connection with Millennials. To keep their product in front of that audience is a really critical thing; whether this does it or not is a different question.”
Pepsi isn’t divulging details about most of the upcoming challenges, however they have let on that one will call for Indian consumers to create an ad to be aired during cricket games. Others will reportedly involve food in Thailand; Brazil’s Rock In Rio, one of the world’s largest music festivals; and a video of Usher in outer space.
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