Undaunted By Previous Effort, PepsiCo Inc. Comes Out Of The Gate With NEXT Internet Taste Test

It wasn’t long ago that the marketing industry was harrumphing about PepsiCo Inc.’s “Pepsi Refresh” social media campaign as a big failure. Some critics were astute enough to realize there were some important lessons in that high profile endeavor – whereby 80 million votes for favorite charities were registered, including 60,000 Twitter followers and 4 million Facebook “likes”.

“Pepsi Refresh” was deemed a failure because PepsiCo eventually lost 5 percent of its U.S. market share and its number two soda spot to Diet Coke. Marketing pundits said “Pepsi Refresh” focused too much on a movement as opposed to products.

I dissented from this viewpoint, stating in an editor’s comment on 01/31/11 that the “Pepsi Refresh” campaign won immeasurable public relations exposure which would translate into stronger sales.

Given the way Pepsi has come out of the gate recently, the “Pepsi Refresh” campaign might not have been as short sighted as some observers thought.

The company just unveiled its first Internet “taste test” for its new NEXT, a cola that delivers cola taste with 60 percent less sugar. The Internet taste test kicks off with a video starring actor and comedian Rob Riggle, who describes how the test works while watching his online persona trying Pepsi NEXT and referencing his "likes," from skeet shooting to painting with water colors.  In addition to Riggle's video, fans can also watch humorous video impressions featuring notable figures in social culture "taking their first sip," including Internet mogul Gary Vaynerchuk and Internet meme, Scumbag Steve.

The NEXT taste test is clearly focused on the product. Given that the product addresses wellness, the campaign will certainly score a big following among consumers of all ages.

The key takeaway is that PepsiCo understands new lifestyles and the ways that consumers are interacting with products and with each other. Social media and mobile broadband are blurring the traditional boundaries between retail channels.

The company also isn’t afraid to try to reach out in new ways to consumers.

There’s a lot for vending and refreshment service operators to learn from this market leader.