NEW YORK: PepsiCo, the soft drinks giant, is seeking to leverage an increasingly diverse range of tools from social networking to shopper marketing in an effort to connect with consumers.

The company launched the Pepsi Refresh Project earlier this year, using a major social media push to raise awareness of its plan to give $20m (€15.6m; £13.4m) in grants to rejuvenate local communities in the US.

"Consumers don't want a one-way dialogue anymore," Jill Beraud, cmo and president, joint ventures for PespiCo Beverages Americas, said.

"They are much more participatory in brands and really want to share in the experience and influence the experience of brands."

"Pepsi has always been about the new generation. We think about this as the Pepsi Challenge for the digital generation. This is going to be as big, if not bigger."

Beraud reported that as 86% of "millennials" favour brands with strong charitable credentials and 76% of "female boomers" are of the same view, this scheme enjoyed a broad appeal.

In evidence of its success to date, she added it took three days to reach entry targets during the first phase, falling to 16 hours for the second round and just one hour for the third stage.

While portals like Facebook and Twitter have been integral to publicising the Pepsi Refresh Project, this platform was also promoted for two weeks on TV, which retains a vital place in the media mix.

"The role of traditional media has changed, but it hasn't been eliminated," said Beraud. "Traditional and social media really reinforce one another."

One of the specific advantages of utilising new media has been the ability to closely track overall engagement levels with the programme.

"We are constantly talking to our consumers. One of the exciting parts of this new, digital, social media craze is that there are so many different access points to consumers," Beraud argued.

In just one demonstration of the traction that the Pepsi Refresh Project has gained, its parent doubled the number of fans it had on Facebook during the first month of the initiative alone.

"We have a phenomenal relationship with Facebook," Beraud said. "We are going to continue to evolve what we do with Facebook and create even more innovative programmes with them and others."

More broadly, Pepsi has built bespoke partnerships with a variety of retailers linked to the Pepsi Refresh Project, with chains like Safeway focusing on a new issue, like education and health, each month.

Insights derived from shopper marketing are playing a key role in this process, and PepsiCo is aiming to take a highly focused approach in this area of its operations going forward.

"The importance of shopper marketing continues to grow and grow and the capabilities that are necessary in shopper marketing continue to become more and more sophisticated," said Beraud.

While Beraud stated that the company has seen a gain in market share since the Pepsi Refresh Project was unveiled, she placed greater emphasis on the potential long-term impact on brand loyalty. 

"The more we engage with our consumers, the more they want to engage with us," Beraud said.

"The more feedback we get and the more meaningful the conversation is, the tighter the bond with our consumers."

Data sourced from The Hub Magazine; additional content by Warc staff