Pepsi refines US strategy

20 July 2009

PURCHASE, New York: Pepsi is increasingly looking online and encouraging its agencies to work together as it looks to drive growth in its home market, Ana Maria Irazabal, the brand's US marketing director, has said.

Irazabal defined her role as a "brand steward responsible for brand positioning and communications", and to "work with our agencies and ensure that we are communicating the right messages."

While the cola category has seen sales decline in America, she argued that Pepsi is managing to build its market share and improve brand perceptions despite the difficult financial environment.

Similarly, it has responded to "the ever-changing media landscape" and the new ways in which "consumers are learning about our brands" by adapting its strategy.

In particular, the fact people are spending more time online means the company needs to deliver "stories in a way that's relevant to the medium and allows our consumers to participate."

One example of this approach has been through using Hulu, where Pepsi ran a range of bespoke ads alongside older programmes such as Doogie Houser and Married with Children.

This tactic was motivated by the understanding that "the shows were old, the times were different and today's spots didn't work in that nostalgic setting."

As such, in order to demonstrate that the company "understood the programming and wanted to be in on the joke", and to promote its Pepsi Throwback Limited Edition, it developed a range of targeted "retro spots", Irazabal said.

In an effort to utilise its resources most effectively, Pepsi also now briefs its agencies from all disciplines – including everything from advertising and PR to music and promotion – at the same time.

It is expected, as part of this process, "that everyone will collaborate and pitch their ideas in front of everyone else when we reconvene. This way, we can work together and make the idea better."

However, the soft drinks giant has also attempted to establish "a model where everyone has clear roles and responsibilities", as agencies need to know "when they lead, support or simply inform."

Consumer research is another key source of insight, as Pepsi's "customers are also an amazing source of in-market intelligence."

"They know what works and what doesn't, which is especially important given the economic climate," Irazabal concluded.

Data sourced from Smart Planet; additional content by WARC staff