NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- What a difference a year makes. Last year, PepsiCo found itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This year the snack and beverage giant has hit its stride.
The company has emerged as a leader in the digital and social-media space, with programs such as Refresh Project, Dewmocracy, Gatorade Mission Control and PepsiCo10, an incubator for media, communications and technology startups. Its beverage brands, many of which went through the ringer in 2009, have bounced back thanks to strong innovation and marketing that led to growing sales, while its food brands continue to be a bright spot. And the company's much-discussed "Power of One" strategy is coming to life on the marketing front, thanks, in part, to the purchase of its two largest bottlers.
PepsiCo started the year with a bang, announcing Pepsi would bypass the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years to focus on the Refresh Project. Buzz surrounding that move outstripped the buzz of the brands that actually bought time in the Super Bowl. Refresh Project, meanwhile, has attracted nearly 53 million votes and, almost 10 months after launch, still generates between six and 12 media reports a day.
Gatorade has also begun to bounce back. The G Series, launched in April, seems to have sparked consumer interest, with volume growing 6.8% through the end of August, according to Beverage Digest. Gatorade Mission Control has also helped the brand manage perceptions and shape conversations. The team has had more than 2,000 one-on-one conversations with consumers, while the brand's "likes" on Facebook have skyrocketed to 1.2 million, reaching the 1 million milestone a full five months ahead of schedule.
Elsewhere in the beverage portfolio, Mtn Dew took crowdsourcing to a new level when it had consumers select creative agencies. Ads for the products began running in April. SoBe's embrace of PR and digital shops also seems to be paying off, with market share growing five points in the first half of the year, according to Beverage Digest. Pepsi Max has gained traction, with new packaging and a comparison campaign that pits the brand against Coke Zero. Sales were already up double digits in the four weeks following the launch. And the company tapped into popular demand for sugar-sweetened beverages with the launch of Sierra Mist Natural.
But perhaps the biggest news in the beverage division this year was the completion of PepsiCo's acquisition of its two largest bottlers. That move has positioned PepsiCo to capitalize on what it calls the "Power of One." The strategy entails making the company's myriad businesses more cohesive. By purchasing its bottlers, PepsiCo is now able to bundle promotions for its food and beverage brands, merchandise its products together and coordinate things such as joint deliveries. Another Power of One program will come to life on the ad world's biggest stage, with Doritos and Pepsi Max teaming up for a "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign. The contest is being run jointly and shared in-store promotions are also planned.
PepsiCo's food business has been a bright spot throughout the recession. During the most recent quarter, the division again posted positive results, with revenues growing 4%. Revenue is also up 4% year to date.