Pepsi's Leo Tsoi

Other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--As VP-marketing for its food brands in Greater China, PepsiCo hopes beverage expert Leo Tsoi can impart the same youthful energy to its snack brands like Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay that he gave Pepsi, one of the hippest teen brands in the mainland.

Mr. Tsoi, 37, succeeds Shireesh Joshi, who has been promoted to VP-strategy development. He will relocate to Shanghai from Hong Kong for the new position, although Mr. Tsoi has spent substantial time on the mainland since joining Pepsi nearly five years ago.

As marketing director for the flagship Pepsi brand in Greater China, Mr. Tsoi played a key role in turning the cola into one of the mainland’s best-known youth brands through celebrity sponsorships and innovative digital campaigns. His former role will taken over by Chris Tung, previously the marketing director for interactive and new initiatives of Pepsi's Beverages Business Unit in China.

During the past two years, the company orchestrated massive web-based promotions called the Pepsi Creative Challenge that put consumers in charge of key aspects of its communication. In 2006 consumers helped Pepsi in an online competition to develop a TV commercial starring Asian superstar Jay Chou.

Last year, Pepsi invited consumers to submit personal photos to a Pepsi website, Pepsi.163.com, where they could also vote on other people's pictures. Eighty-four photos were selected to run on four regional cans, and 21 of them will also appear on cans distributed nationally. The site attracted over 25 million unique visitors and nearly 144 million votes, and created a giant online community as the leading contenders became net celebrities within China.

With the Pepsi brand, said Carol Potter, Shanghai-based CEO, China at BBDO Worldwide, which handles creative for many of Pepsi's beverage and food brands in China, "he took a very innovative approach to the market, particularly engaging consumers through new media. If he brings a nontraditional approach to the food brands, especially Doritos, which has the same target audience as the Pepsi drink brand, the results will likely be very good."

The company also temporarily changed the color of the cans from traditional Pepsi blue to red, one of the most popular colors in Chinese culture, as well as the traditional color of Pepsi's chief rival, Coca-Cola.

"Blue has been our color but we want to make Pepsi different, and consumers in China think the red cans are cool. It's very different and shows the passion of Pepsi to support China and 'Team China'" in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing, said Mr. Tsoi in September 2007, when the red cans were released.

Because China is one of the world's biggest internet markets, with more than 162 million web surfers and is expected to reach 200 to 250 million within five years, Mr. Tsoi predicts digital marketing can also help grow Pepsi’s snack brands.

“Interactive marketing should be an essential part of communication for products like Lays, Doritos and Cheetos, since they are all targeting young people and in China, that means web users. The internet is their life,” said Mr. Tsoi, a Hong Kong native.

Pepsi’s snack brands have been sold in China for more than 10 years and are widely distributed in tier-one and tier-two cities, but marketing food products in the mainland presents different challenges, said Mr. Tsoi.

Young adults in Asia, including China, were raised on tea and fruit juices, not fizzy, sugary soft drinks. Also, drinks like Pepsi and Coke remain costly for most young Asians, compared to the price of local drinks. Young consumers in the U.S. and Europe might choose Pepsi as an inexpensive thirst-quencher. Asian teens often buy it to show off their spending power and familiarity with foreign brands among friends, prompting Pepsi to build its leading drink as a hip youth brand.

When it comes to snacks, Chinese also have different taste and texture preferences than western cultures, preferring savory snacks made from local products like dried seafood or one of China’s national staples, instant noodles, to salty potato chips. Quaker faces similar challenges. While Chinese have a long tradition of consuming hot cereal for breakfast, most were brought up on a rice-based porridge called congee, not oatmeal.

“Working on Pepsi's food brands will be very challenging and involve different consumer behavior," Mr. Tsoi said. "Some of these categories are not well established."

But brands like Quaker are one of Pepsi’s biggest opportunities in China, thanks to a growing interest in health and wellness and natural foods, he said. "It's a new, different category and sales are very small in China right now, but I believe we can take the brand and make it relevant to Chinese people.”

Before Pepsi, Mr. Tsoi was marketing manager for Starbucks in Asia/Pacific, where he focused on building a coffee culture in 12 markets with strong historical ties to tea, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He was also a brand manager at Procter & Gamble in Hong Kong and China for over five years, handling brands like Pampers, Head & Shoulders, Olay and Tempo.


Other appointment news in Greater China

[shanghai] GroupM's MindShare has appointed Meg Wu as general manager, China, of its interaction division, a new position based in Shanghai. Previously, she was general manager, China at Zed Digital, the digital arm of ZenithOptimedia based in Beijing. Before that, she was sales and marketing director at Chinadotcom Corp.

[shanghai] TBWA Worldwide's below-the-line arm Tequila has promoted Jocelyn Yong to general manager of its office in Shanghai, a new position, from group business director of Tequila's Pernod Ricard account in China.
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