Pepsi drives digital change

17 January 2011

NEW YORK: PepsiCo is continuing to modernise its digital media strategy, covering areas from mobile marketing to selecting advertising agencies.

"Digital is unique in that it is a two-way medium. Don't try to slot it into the world of TV, print or radio," Shiv Singh, head of digital at PepsiCo Beverages, told Forbes.

"Treat it is as the unique beast that it is and think in terms of developing strong, global campaigns that are digital at their core."

Even within this space, it remains vital to focus on the individual values embodied by a brand, rather than letting pre-conceived ideas of what constitutes success shape the tactics employed.

"Create digital campaigns that meet each brand's unique objectives. At the end of the day we are in this business to sell products, build brand health and foster long-term brand equity," Singh suggested.

"My team works in partnership with our brand teams to plan through the lens of whom the brands are and what they're trying to accomplish from a business perspective."

Regularly monitoring popular perceptions, leveraging consumer data and adopting a coordinated approach across the various available channels can contribute to attain such ambitions.

"We've put in place a digital scorecard system for all the brands and we're transforming our huge customer relationship management programme," said Singh.

"Key to this is figuring out how CRM and social media should work together."

This has become increasingly central as PepsiCo allies with a range of online and mobile companies to reach the target audience in new ways.

"In this world, social media is at the heart of everything that we do digitally," said Singh.

"My goal is to further push a digital innovation agenda through greater linkages between owned, paid and social media, while also scaling up our mobile marketing efforts."

Alongside a tie-up with geo-location service Foursquare and retailer Vons, Pepsi has experimented on Apple's iPad and recently established an official Facebook presence for Pepsi Max.

Extracting the highest possible benefits from these efforts requires constructing appropriate in-house structures.

"PepsiCo recognised the importance of having all facets of digital in one place and created the role in which they hired me into," said Singh. "The only way to drive maximum value is to look at digital holistically."

Internal education has also proved essential, and the firm held a Mobile Summit in November 2010, featuring speakers like Foursquare's co-founder Dennis Crowley.

"The best way to get team members to buy into the process is to showcase how it helps their brands achieve their business objectives more effectively and efficiently," said Singh.

"You shouldn't oversell digital ... You'll lose credibility if you ram it down people's throat and it doesn't give you the results it should."

Another major priority has been adapting media planning and buying models, to ensure metrics move beyond simplistic tools like clickthrough rates.

"[We give] more attention to digital media partners that put as much attention on digital engagement as they do on selling us impressions," said Singh.

Such an initiative is indicative of a wider shift applicable to PepsiCo's agencies, as the company is "prototyping" a new flexible roster, instead of relying on a single shop.

"This model gives every agency the opportunity to bring ideas and recommendations to the table that are platform agnostic," said Singh.

"Internally, we've restructured my team and are partnering with agencies in a way that creates more win-win scenarios."

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff