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How PepsiCo picks startup partners

News, 15 March 2016

AUSTIN, TX: PepsiCo, the food and beverage giant, is using three rules to identify which startups, tech providers and entrepreneurs might help drive a marketing innovation agenda that increasingly looks beyond its own "four walls".

Jaime Fabricant, Senior Marketing Manager/Cultural Foresights & Innovation for PepsiCo Beverages, discussed this subject at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

"I'm not too proud to say it: not every marketing innovation is going to come from within the four walls of our business," she said. (For more, including further tips for brands working with startups, read Warc's exclusive report: PepsiCo's playbook for next-generation marketing partnerships.)

And as part of Creator, a PepsiCo unit charged with fostering new partnerships that keep the firm's brands on the cutting edge of culture, Fabricant follows a clear set of principles when trying to spot a promising new venture.

The first simply reads: "Has this never been done before?" If not, a brand may have found some white space – and a unique engagement opportunity. "That excites people, and you're delivering marketing innovation," she added.

Building on this requirement is the possibility of taking an innovative program and, following initial tests, expanding its reach when desired.

"I think that's a really important metric for us: can we scale this after we've experimented with it?" Fabricant told the SXSW attendees.

The third criterion involves harder numbers, Fabricant revealed. "Is this a new business opportunity – could it even be potentially monetised in the future?" she said in describing it.

But in outlining the broader objectives that underpin PepsiCo's work with startups and fledgling technologies, she emphasised that relevance is usually a more significant factor than revenue.

"I think it comes back to brand relevance a little bit more than sales. I don't think we're really looking to drive bottles and cans with these things," Fabricant said.

"It is [more about]: are we more relevant to our consumers? Are we building more of a relationship because we're grounded in cultural verticals – whether that's being tech-enabled, or tying closer to sports or music lifestyle or something like that? So, also looking at what other metrics you have, other than the regular sales of your core product."

Data sourced from Warc