Will Pepsi’s social media gamble pay off?

Pepsi is taking an enormous gamble this year by relinquishing the Superbowl ad spot it has held for 23 years, instead trading it in for a $20m social media campaign.

But with only 250,000 actively engaged Facebook fans compared to Coke’s 4 million plus, Ideaworks’ head of digital Aden Hepburn ask, will it work?  


  1. Titus
    5 Jan 10
    5:33 pm

  2. Of course it will work (that is, get more fans registered), people will jump on almost any bandwagon. One has to wonder why 4 million people have declared themselves fans of Coke. The question is, will the campaign sell more Pepsi? Pepsi is a pretty good cola, but has a crappy brand image, Coke is a pretty ordinary drink, but has great brand presence. I’m not sure Pepsi will ever close the gap created by US government policy during WW2.

  3. Scott Taylor
    5 Jan 10
    7:01 pm

  4. Or they could just wait a few years and buy Twitter for $20 million

  5. larry
    6 Jan 10
    10:10 am

  6. it is scary to see that after 2 years of relentless salesmanship and half truths marketing people are starting to buy into some of these ridiculous social media scams.

  7. meeda
    6 Jan 10
    10:41 am

  8. This is a great move by pepsi… it was time for a change. This will drive the product across a more international market as well, and with hit the younger generation also.

  9. larry
    6 Jan 10
    11:31 am

  10. “250,000 actively engaged Facebook fans compared to Coke’s 4 million plus”

    can i ask who wrote this article a question – what does ‘actively engaged’ actually mean?

    let’s walk through what is required to become a fan on facebook.

    1. click ‘become a fan’


    after that – where is the active engagement? what is this figure based on? how many people that are ‘fans’ of something have done anything more than just click ‘become a fan’. It’s like saying that everyone who has once said to someone or thought to themselves ‘gee this tastes good’ is a brand ambassador/advocate.

    i always thought metrics used in marketing where things that mattered commercially … not irrelevant ambiguous things like ‘friends’ ‘fans’ ‘retweets’ etc.

  11. Jamoe
    6 Jan 10
    1:38 pm

  12. …And do these people become fans by finding the brand and adding it because they like it? or does Pepsi have to spend more money on Facebook ads in order to prompt them to become fans from there?

  13. Adam Beaupeurt
    7 Jan 10
    2:45 pm

  14. It’s not just about the fans, well in the US anyway – the campaign is aimed at users sharing an idea and persisting their ‘friends’ to vote for their particular project, where the projects with the highest number of votes receive funding. Once these users share this information on their social networks – they have created their own personalised Pepsi advertisement on their page. I believe this campaign will have phenomenal success in the US, not just with the amount of applicants, but down to brand awareness, the philanthropic perception and to sales.

    If it is successful, don’t be surprised to see it launched in Australia within 6 months. Currently Australia’s campaign is a dumbed down, yet more complex version of the above.

  15. Peter Applebaum
    7 Jan 10
    6:08 pm

  16. Bravo Pepsi. They laughed / sneered at Galileo too!

    Rather than initially try to debate the merit – & quality – of their social media strategy, perhaps it’s prudent to consider the ROI of Pepsi’s previous Super Bowl TV advertising. Sure it had all the ad types tittering (maybe even twittering if they were truly evolved) but did it move the propensity to buy &/or sales needles? I’m not sure. But the good people at Pepsi are no doubt pretty smart so for them to walk away from the jewel in the US’ advertising crown something must not be working. So what to do.

    Tipping $23 mill into social media IS a ballsy thing to do. But what responsible marketer can afford to ignore or merely dabble in something that has captivated 100millions of people? There are many ways to support the worth of an integrated & strategic social media program. The problem is, because social media is so new too few people have the experience or understanding to be able to do so convincingly.

    Google ‘Social Media ROI’ and read some or all of the 2.8million articles / blogs / case studies and then talk to me about scams and half-truths.

  17. Digital Buzz
    8 Jan 10
    12:57 pm

  18. @ Larry

    I think the whole “engaged” thing came from Igor on ViralBlog, they run a social media agency / tracking app (not sure how they actually calculate – almost looks like it’s just their fan number!). But I agree with the 1 click = fan doesn’t really equal an “engaged fan” and not sure how that was equated. But I’m sure some would argue on FB that with the ability to broadcast into your stream as they like once you are a fan that they are engaging you on a frequenty basis.

  19. larry
    8 Jan 10
    1:03 pm

  20. Peter – you don’t, by chance, have involvement in a company that is operating in this social media space do you?

    OMG you do.

    Well there you go.

  21. larry
    8 Jan 10
    1:05 pm

  22. Digital Buzz – that’s the problem right there. We accept terms like ‘engaged’ but the people saying it don’t really know what it constitutes.

    “TV is great because Jim at blahblog said it engaged hundreds of millions and I’m sure that is true.”

    I’m not saying either is correct, or whether there’s even a Blahblog or a Jim that works there … but I am sure we can do better than this.

  23. Digital Buzz
    9 Jan 10
    1:33 am

  24. @ Peter

    You can actually see the twittering responses from last years superbowl here: http://bit.ly/FSsp (on NY times) – interesting to see they run 2 ads – one at the very start with almost NO tweet response on the west coast and then another at full time that gets noticed on the east coast, but still NOTHING compared to Hulu + Career Builder

    Food for thought.

  25. Digital Buzz
    9 Jan 10
    1:34 am

  26. Hmmm, did I just say twittering responses… clearly it’s too late to be awake!

  27. Peter Applebaum
    10 Jan 10
    6:14 pm

  28. Aden, that’s a great chart. Having said that, I’m amazed that there was any meaningful mention of ads in the twittersphere at all. I mean c’mon, we think what we do is important but in the scheme of things it’s an irrelevance to the vast majority of people – particularly compared to watching the Super Bowl.

    Re engagement Larry, I completely agree with you that measuring this via the number of friends / fans / followers / views you have on social media platforms is questionable. While they’re important metrics, it would be like saying, well ,150 people walked in to my shop today. OK, but how many people bought?

    While there is still much to learn, the proven key to effective social media programs – & yes, I proudly run a company in this space – is putting an on-going, longer-term strategy in place that incorporates tactical implementations to maintain / build engagement leading to sales. Plus, of course integrating with other marketing activities.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts, Larry as to what Pepsi should do instead of investing in social media.

  29. Larry
    10 Jan 10
    11:09 pm

  30. i’d probably use the money to invest in a better core creative concept personally – one that can work across all channels. pepsi hasn’t had one for years.

    it appears (from an onlooker so take it for what it’s worth) that pepsi is doing what it think is ‘cool/clever’ and maybe hasn’t been as diligent as it could be in working out what the real potential end gain could be.

  31. Belinda
    11 Jan 10
    2:22 pm

  32. Maybe if they were really going for the philanthropic angle, the best action would be to stop creating a product full of sugar (or chemical sweetener) and completely lacking in nutrients, that is contributing to an obesity crisis in the Western world.

  33. Elliot Kleiner
    11 Jan 10
    3:14 pm

  34. To Belinda – I’m intrigued by your input, albeit that it’s quite a bit off the point. Please qualify your remarks by directing us all to the public statement, doubtless one that you’ve found somewhere in Pepsi’s marketing and advertising history, where Pepsi makes the distinct claim that it’s products are “nutritious”.

    Your right to have your say is not in question here, just a pointer that it’s probably the wrong forum to push your medical agenda. Staging your views from atop a biodegradable fruitbox would probably reduce the carbon footprint applied by your use of the Internet. I like your assertiveness though. You believe skim milk has less carbs than full-cream don’t you? Hhmm!

    To Larry – You speak strongly against Pepsi’s market research prowess, its courage to “test & measure” then act upon the data in a pragmatic way while you fail to table any real substance in your argument. Never let the facts get in the way of a good Blog!

    I wonder if the reason why you can’t boast Pepsi among your clientele might be 50/50 between your adherence to “the old ways”, an inflexibility to embrace modern methods just because you don’t know them very well, and your “punctuation deficit disorder”. Just kidding Larry – we’re all friends here 😉 I’m sure Pepsi knows what its doing, specifically when perusing the latest and greatest ways to engage a demographic that is probably primarily teens. I’m the first to admit that I have no data to back this next comment up, however, I’d bet real money that more teenagers use social networking sites than watch football.

    To Peter – Thumbs up to you pal! You qualify your remarks with facts that you obviously make your living on, and aren’t hiding that fact. Integrity and professionalism such as yours will get points of view across further and faster than most who hide behind anonymity. I’m sure your client base is confident in what you’re doing for them.