Pepsi has been shaking up the beverage category over the last year, implementing a design-led, culture-centric approach to marketing and reimagining the way consumers experience its live events. In his keynote speech at the Experiential Marketing Summit in Denver (May 4-6), Pepsi’s vice president of consumer engagement Adam Harter detailed the brand’s transformation, offering insights on how to combat consumer apathy by keeping pace with today’s rapidly evolving consumer climate. A closer look at the five principles guiding Pepsi’s new philosophy:
1. Culture is not a Spectator Sport.
“If you think about all the cultural passion points, we know that sports and music are the biggest and probably will be for a long time,” says Harter. “But it goes so far beyond that now, into gaming, food, culinary, wine, fashion, art, design, emerging technology. To really connect authentically, we have to be better across this entire spectrum… What’s going to unite [this generation] are these cross-cultural commonalities. And finding ways to connect them across these passion points is where brands are going to win.”
2. Play with the Fringes.
“What we’ve seen is that as an organization, we need to incorporate… experimentation and incubation into the DNA of our marketers, and we started an entire new team called Creator. Their sole mission is to act as a catalyst, bringing outside influences in, inspiring our teams, making sure we have our finger on the pulse of all the things that are happening just around the corner on a global scale,” says Harter.
3. Lead with Design.
Pepsi’s design center staff has tripled over the last three years (it now employs more than 100 people), and the brand is opening new studios around the globe. “One of the most important things our design team has taught us is to never allow anyone to decide who you are and what you stand for, and what you are and can and cannot be,” said Harter. “If you’re a design-led organization… you have to bind to the concept that design will absolutely elevate the experience and ultimately add value in driving premium for your products.”
4. Set Creativity on Fire.
“We are in this amazing time where creativity has just run rampant across the world… Look at the creator community right now,” Harter says. “All you need is a smartphone and an idea. You don’t need any permission. You don’t need any money. And the brands that enable these creators, these are the brands that are going to win. We see power any time you help consumers unleash their creativity.”
5. Alter Reality.
“One of the things we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun with at Pepsi is playing with the blending of fiction and reality, and what we found out was consumers absolutely love it,” Harter says. “Take a look at those experiences and think about your ultimate aspiration if you bring it to life. Is it going to make chills run down that consumer’s spine, the hairs stand up on the back of their neck? If not, please take a step back. Challenge your team to set the aspirations a bit higher. It will not disappoint you.”