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The latest folly from Pepsi

As this article in AdAge makes abundantly clear, Pepsi is in a mess.

Before looking in more detail at the new Pepsi campaign, it should be noted how, as ever, The Humpty Dumpty, clear-as-mud nature of “positioning” makes this article almost laughable, as the word is tossed around with the usual abandon. The subheading illustrates how ridiculous the term has become: “After Fielding Biggest Consumer-Research Push in Decades, Brand Settles on ‘Now’ Global Positioning.” A global positioning of “Now”? Elsewhere, Brad Jakeman, Pepsi president of global enjoyment, cites “Moments of Connection” as Starbucks’ positioning. “Moments of Connection” is not a positioning (statement). It is a brand idea. One which belongs to the Oreo brand.

Pepsi used to be the prototype of the strategic challenger brand. Now it’s the prototype of the strategically-challenged brand. In falling over themselves to be the opposite of Coke, Jakeman and co. are guilty of the kind of fuzzy thinking that must have Coke’s executives enjoying “happiness and moments of joy.” Jakeman summarizes months of research with the statement that “Coke is timeless. Pepsi is timely.” But the intended juxtaposition doesn’t work. Timely isn’t the opposite of timeless. And the “concept of being timely” doesn’t equate to “capturing the excitement of now,” as is suggested. Timely means opportune, occurring at a suitable time. “Brands that are timeless want to have museums,” quips Jakeman, referring to the World of Coca-Cola attraction. Actually, it’s called brand heritage. And it’s a characteristic of iconic brands, which Coke is, and Pepsi isn’t – and is not likely to be, based on this latest folly.

The article quotes an agency creative director – who collaborated on the “Live for Now” campaign -seemingly lamenting the fact that many people still “want to go back to this moment in the 1980s” (“but brands need to evolve..”) At the same time it mentions a third-generation bottler apparently enthusing over the campaigns from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the fact that “Live for Now” is bringing Pepsi back to those roots of what the brand is all about. Now that’s what I call juxtaposition.

As for Jakeman’s assertion that Pepsi creates culture whereas Coke merely protects it, remind me to tell that to Santa next Christmas. And isn’t celebrity endorsement – the mainstay of so many of Pepsi’s campaigns – all about riding on the back of culture?

Incidentally, Pepsi has recently announced an exclusive global partnership with Michael Jackson’s estate as part of the new “Live for Now” campaign. The deal coincides with the brand’s legacy with the King of Pop and the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s multi-platinum Bad album (1987). A billion special edition Michael Jackson Bad 25 Pepsi cans will be produced. The King of Pop? Timeless? Timely? Time out.

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