Over several weeks early this year, Brad Jakeman, president-global
enjoyment and chief creative officer, has walked key Pepsi
constituents around the lab, talking about ideas and showing off
mock-ups of new vending and fountain machines, samples of licensed
products and new marketing concepts. It's a world where Pepsi
specifically -- and the cola category generally -- is cool again.
He insists it's not a pipe dream, despite the facts: Blue-can
Pepsi had slides of 0.3% in market share and 4.8% in volume last
year, and the carbonated-soft-drink category has been declining for
seven straight years, according to Beverage Digest.
"The category is in decline in this country, but it's growing in
a significant number of our markets," Mr. Jakeman said. "It lost
the cool quotient. If there's any brand that can inspire the
category again, it's Pepsi."
In March, Ad Age was invited to the space, where the company had
erected a temporary "Pepsi Experience." For nearly two hours, Mr.
Jakeman screened internal presentations, detailed months of
consumer research and candidly discussed where the brand has
excelled and where it's fallen short. He laid out a road map for
returning Pepsi to pop-culture relevance, growing sales, creating a
cohesive design system and invigorating employees. And he explained
precisely what makes Pepsi different from Coke, distinctions that
for many were visceral but not easily articulated.
Mr. Jakeman was in high spirits, having received positive
feedback on his plans from all corners of the company.
"I have always aspired to have this brand in my custodianship
for a period of my career," Mr. Jakeman said, sharing his longtime
routine of drinking a Pepsi or Diet Pepsi in the morning, followed
by a Diet Mtn Dew in the afternoon.
"While we might not be the leading cola, we have always behaved
like we were. This is a brand that, when it's at its best, has the
confidence and swagger of a leader," he said. "Our least-impactful
marketing has been when we've tried to reinvent this brand. This
brand does not need to be reinvented. It needs to be
It's clear that the dapper Australian has immersed himself. Mr.
Jakeman concedes he has probably annoyed his team by insisting they
repeatedly watch historical reels of Pepsi advertising. He flashes
a snapshot of himself, grinning in a Pepsi T-shirt next to a sign
in the brand's birthplace of New Bern, N.C. Commemorating Pepsi's
inventor, Caleb Bradham, the sign notes that Pepsi-Cola was
originally marketed as "Brad's Drink."
"It was quite prophetic," Mr. Jakeman said, drawing the
connection between Pepsi's original name and his first name. "I
thought it was all meant to be."
Mr. Jakeman joined PepsiCo less than a year ago, when
conversations about the brand's first global campaign were already
in full swing. "I thought ... we had codified a very cogent point
of view on what the brand was going to stand for," he said. "But we
Who are we?
So began the "most exhaustive and rigorous consumer-insights-led
process" Mr. Jakeman said he had ever been a part of, in a career
that spans more than two decades at Activision Blizzard, Macy's,
Citibank and Ogilvy &
Mather. It was also the first instance since the mid-1990s that
Pepsi execs had spent a significant amount of time with consumers
around the globe, said Simon Lowden, CMO-PepsiCo Americas Beverages
and former head of Pepsi International marketing.
Newcomer Mr. Jakeman and British company veteran Mr. Lowden --
insiders describe them as "dynamic" and a "yin-yang team" -- began
discussing Pepsi's positioning, which they believed should drive
advertising and design strategy, and in turn fuel innovation and
consumer engagement. For Starbucks, the positioning statement is
"Moments of Connection"; for Nike, "If you have a body, you're an
Those brands have a clear sense of what they are, who their
consumers are and their role in consumers' lives, according to Mr.
Jakeman. "Pepsi has never really had that," he said. "As a brand we
have moved from one advertising campaign to another to another. We
need to get a lot more disciplined. Because we haven't had an
enduring piece of brand language, we just attached different things
to the logo all the time."
Taglines have varied widely even in just the past few years.
From "Every Pepsi Refreshes the World" to "Summer Time is Pepsi
Time" to "Where There's Pepsi, There's Music."
"Between "Refresh' and now there were some good stop-gap
measures," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage
Digest. "But brand Pepsi legitimately needs a big, integrated
campaign that can run for several years, and PepsiCo has not given
it that," he added. "For some years now the bottlers have been
looking to PepsiCo to get behind this brand in a big and muscular
way, and its clear PepsiCo is doing that now."
Jeff Minges, chairman-CEO of the independent Minges Bottling
Group, hosted Messrs. Jakeman and Lowden when they visited New Bern
last July. He said he believes PepsiCo is now displaying the
"moxie" of a truly global company. "They've listened to where the
bottlers want to put emphasis and realized the Pepsi trademark can
still be vibrant and relevant," he said.
Timeless vs. timely
For nine months, a core team of Pepsi execs, including Messrs.
Jakeman and Lowden, scoured the globe for inspiration, looked to
the past for insights and sought to understand what precisely made
Pepsi different from Coke. There were exhaustive focus groups,
in-home ethnographies, quantitative and qualitative studies, and
cultural immersions in markets as diverse as Argentina, Australia,
United Arab Emirates and Russia. Mr. Jakeman quipped his
frequent-flier status is the best it's been in years.
"The Pepsi user is psychographically very similar across the
world, so if there is a brand that needed a consistent global
positioning, it's Pepsi," said Deepika Warrier, PepsiCo's
VP-marketing India Beverages. She noted that the global marketing
teams, herself included, have had input throughout the process.
Though the execs took cues from the past -- "understanding our
famous past is important in rewriting a more famous future," Mr.
Jakeman said -- they were also keen to better understand their
longtime rival. Mr. Jakeman summarized months of research with the
simple statement: Coke is timeless. Pepsi is timely.
"Brands that are timeless want to have museums," Mr. Jakeman
said, referring to the World of Coca-Cola attraction.
"Pepsi is not a brand that belongs in a museum."
Coke, Mr. Jakeman said, represents happiness and moments of joy,
while it protects culture and maintains the status quo. Pepsi, on
the other hand, creates culture and embraces individuality. For
Pepsi loyalists, leading an exciting life is much more important
than leading a happy one, Mr. Jakeman said.
Those insights led Pepsi to embrace a brand positioning to
"capture the excitement of now," and the campaign that has been
developed carries the tagline, "Live for Now." It's already proved
a potent rallying cry.
"There are a lot of ghosts on Pepsi," said Rob Schwartz, chief
creative officer at TBWA/Chiat/Day, which
collaborated with BBDO on the effort.
People "want to go back to this moment in the 1980s," he said. "But
brands need to evolve, take what was part of the DNA and make it
modern and relevant. Between timeless and timely -- that unlocked
so many creative doors."
That concept of being timely, of "capturing the excitement of
now," will also inform the brand's design efforts, which have been
dissected a lot in recent years. After Pepsi's 2008 logo redesign,
meant to evoke a smile, a graphic tracking Pepsi and Coke logos
over the years made the rounds on the internet. The joke? Pepsi has
had 11 since 1898, while Coke's logo was unchanged since 1886.
Coke's logo has actually undergone changes, but the giant has
largely stuck to its brand equities: the color red and a scripted
font. By contrast, little has been sacred at Pepsi. It's not
unusual to see soda cans with the latest logo being unloaded from a
truck bearing an outdated one. And major countries, including
China, India and Russia, use different logos than the U.S.
"It's not as tidy as we're trained to believe" it should be, Mr.
Jakeman said. "But the bigger question is "Does it bother
consumers?' I haven't seen any evidence that it does."
Mr. Jakeman cited MTV, Starbucks and Google as brands that
regularly fiddle with their logo size, design and color. The
difference between them and Pepsi is that those brands have
operated within a system of "strategic variance," he said, the type
he hopes to create at Pepsi in the coming months.
Pepsi won't be changing its logo, though markets such as China
will be updating to unify the brand. Instead, it is building on
brand equities. For example: the idea of red and blue divided by
white -- imagine a guitar or the Statue of Liberty swathed in red,
white and blue mimicking Pepsi's logo.
"When you change the logo all the time ... one thing is
automatically made redundant by the other thing," Mr. Jakeman said.
"With this system each new thing is just different, not new or
Bringing Pepsi back
News of the "Live for Now" campaign began to spread last week,
and the first spot, featuring a cameo from performer Nicki Minaj,
is set to be released May 7. Pepsi Pulse, a company-curated
"dashboard of pop culture" ranking tweets, photos and news items
from the entertainment world, has replaced Pepsi.com. There's
already a feeling among those close to the brand that something big
The positioning and campaign signal a shift, as Pepsi returns to
leading consumers rather than tapping into trends, according to Ms.
Warrier. "We will need to invest in capability, in foresights and
dynamic trend-spotting, design and creating social communities,"
"The new positioning injects new energy into not only the brand
but the people who work on it," giving them a license to experiment
with "exciting new initiatives," said Richard Lee, CMO-PepsiCo
China. "Who doesn't want to work on a brand that promises to
capture the excitement of now?"
Mr. Minges, a third-generation Pepsi bottler, knows better than
most what it takes to make Pepsi great. He came of age in the
business when Alan Pottasch, legendary marketer and father of the
"Pepsi Generation," was at the helm. And he's clearly optimistic
about the next generation of leadership.
"These two men have created something special," he said of
Messrs. Jakeman and Lowden. "They're taking Pepsi to another level.
When you look back at those campaigns from the '70s, '80s, even the
early '90s, they were all tied to music and entertainment. [Live
for Now] is bringing back the roots of what Pepsi is all