PEPSI BRINGS BLUE TO U.S. PACKAGE TRIALS;NEW ORLEANS, DES MOINES GETTING REVAMPED INTERNATIONAL DESIGN

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Pepsi-Cola Co. will test a U.S. version of its blue international Pepsi packaging beginning in November.

The blue packaging, with minor changes from the design introduced in April overseas, will be tested in Des Moines, Iowa, and New Orleans.

Pepsi embarked on Project Blue as a way to spark growth in overseas markets, where it trails archrival Coca-Cola Co. by a wide margin. With the help of design and identity agency Landor Associates, Pepsi-Cola decided to abandon its red, white and blue cans and packages and try to own blue in the same way Coke owns red.

Thus far, Pepsi has taken blue into about 20 markets, representing 40% of its international volume.

"It's doing well. Our consumer awareness scores are hitting some all-time highs in those markets," said a company spokesman.

In an era when marketers in every industry are seeking to unify marketing plans across national borders, Pepsi executives see potential in bringing blue to the U.S., too. However, Pepsi's business here is healthy-not counting diet brands, Pepsi and Coke run neck-and-neck in large retail outlets-making the U.S. a less pressing priority.

"Pepsi sees big potential here. But switching to blue everywhere is going to take a long time, because it's going to cost" several hundred million dollars, said an executive familiar with the test plan. "Their idea is to test different marketing plans for rolling it out to see how much of a kick they can get."

Pepsi chose New Orleans and Des Moines in part because they're at opposite ends of the market-share spectrum, according to Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter that first reported Pepsi's plans last week. Pepsi has a commanding 15% to 9% edge over Coke in Des Moines, while it trails 7% to 30% in New Orleans, the publication said.

Pepsi declined to reveal marketing plans for the test cities.

"Everything you see in the markets will reflect the new look," the spokesman said.

The blue packaging will cover all Pepsi varieties, including diet and caffeine-free.

BBDO Worldwide, New York, created global advertising for the launch of Project Blue, using Pepsi's usual mix of celebrities and humor.

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