In 2010, Pepsi made headlines with the launch of the Pepsi Refresh Project. The first-of -its-kind experiment in social media invested the brand in community-building projects. It was a pivotal test case for other brands trying to navigate an ad-cluttered, cynic-rich marketing landscape.
Originally slated to be a year-long marketing effort, the program garnered early attention when Pepsi sat out the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years. Ultimately the program lasted two years, though it saw tweaks to the grants and voting process in the second year.
The program also suffered its fair share of criticism, with allegations of cheating and concerns that it didn't connect closely enough with sales. Still, industry watchers almost universally agree that it was a bold experiment and a harbinger of things to come. Pepsi, for its part, says the program was intended to be a long-term equity play.