NEW YORK: Pepsi is hoping to drive "deeper consumer engagement" with the second wave of the Pepsi Refresh Project, a co-creation initiative which focuses on local communities.

The company rolled out the Pepsi Refresh Project last year, allowing individuals and groups to submit schemes for anything from revitalising schools to regenerating the Gulf Coast, and voted for by netizens.

Pepsi distributed $20m to over 1,000 entries, as it sought to connect with a broad range of consumers.

"Pepsi is taking part in a shift toward a culture of participation, spurred on by the belief in and power of the actions of people and their ideas," Ana Maria Irazabal, US marketing director for the Pepsi brand, told Popsop.

While this platform constituted a major break from traditional communications techniques, attempting to reflect the changing attitudes and preferences of shoppers, it also provided differentiation.

"Part of Pepsi's DNA has always been the spirit of the challenger, celebration of the next generation, and of optimism and of all things young at heart," said Irazabal,

"We took the challenge to introduce a truly digital programme, grounded in consumer engagement, which at the same time demonstrated a bold and credible commitment by Pepsi in what was a very new space for the brand."

Having found brand metrics such as favourability, trust and purchase intent rose first time round, especially among millennials, Pepsi is running another iteration of the initiative this year, doubling the amount of grants.

"Pepsi became one of the most talked-about brands at the Super Bowl despite not advertising - twice as many Americans are now aware of the Pepsi Refresh Project, versus similar cause-marketing programmes," said Irazabal.

"We've always said that if you support Pepsi, you support the Pepsi Refresh Project."

The latest version of the Pepsi Refresh Project draws on learnings from the first phase and shopper feedback, and uses three categories - art and music, communities and education.

Alongside handing out smaller sums of $10,000, the Pepsi Challenge will see the company pose a "unique" question to consumers each month, encouraging them to think of, and submit, ideas.

Elsewhere, the addition of "power voting" ties the Project to product purchases by giving customers buying relevant goods the opportunity to win extra votes.

"In 2011, we will continue to measure success through our brand health metrics. By doubling the number of grants, we hope to extend our social impact footprint to more individuals and communities," said Irazabal.

"In addition, we anticipate deeper consumer engagement and more user conversation through our new site as well as the Pepsi Challenge and power voting."

Pepsi has previously suggested it may consider pursuing the Refresh Project overseas, but at present is following a slightly different idea in several countries.

Project Refresh, running in geographies like Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela and ten Middle Eastern nations, is largely focused on individual young people and having fun.

It has also not received the level of financial backing dedicated to the Refresh Project in the US.

Data sourced from Popsop; additional content by Warc staff