Move over Santa, here comes Cardi B in Pepsi’s holiday campaign

Beverage marketer ups its holiday marketing in a direct challenge to Coke

Published On
Nov 21, 2019

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Pepsi has an answer to Coke’s Santa Claus: Cardi B.

The rapper stars in a new holiday-themed campaign for the brand as it pours more money into seasonal marketing. The new investment marks a direct challenge to Coke, whose polar bear mascots and Santa imagery have long been used to push the brand during the holidays. 

Pepsi wants to put a more contemporary twist on the holidays. Its campaign, called “Gift it Forward with Pepsi,” includes what it calls a “digital scratch-off game” that makes use of QR  codes imprinted on cans of the soda. If buyers reveal three Pepsi globes, they win cash prizes ranging from $5 to $25,000. The catch is the money must be instantly gifted to a friend or charity.

Cardi B plugs the program via digital ads and a TV ad spot to run during NBC’s coverage of the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” as well as during National Football League Thanksgiving Day games. 

The ad features a new take on the classic “Here Comes Santa Claus” tune called “Here Comes Cardi B.” She is shown mingling with elves and encouraging viewers to give money, not clothes, as gifts.“If you don’t know they size, don’t give them a sweater, give them the gift that always fits: cash,” she says.

Pepsi used Motive to design the “Gift it Forward” program, while VaynerMedia handled the Cardi B ad.

Todd Kaplan, VP of marketing for Pepsi, in an interview conceded that the brand has historically not done as much holiday marketing as Coke. Pepsi is stepping it up now because “the holidays are obviously a great time for cola and for our product,” he says. “As people stock up for the holiday parties and the meals, and all that, we want to make sure Pepsi is front of mind.”

But, he adds: “We don’t want to just be another brand that has Santa Claus and has your traditional holiday point of view.”  Instead Pepsi wanted to do something that is a better fit for its brand image, he says, by “unapologetically giving out cash....with none other than Cardi B.”

Pepsi’s approach is certainly a departure from Coke’s holiday marketing tactics, which lean into more traditional holiday imagery. Coke is so closely linked to Christmas that its version of Santa Claus, first created in 1931 by artist Haddon Sundblom, is widely credited with popularizing the modern-day interpretation of Santa Claus—a big jolly man in a red suit. The polar bears have been part of Coca-Cola's repertoire since first appearing in a print ad in France in 1922.

Of course, Coke has modernized how it uses the bears over the years. This season the brand is touting an augmented reality experience in which consumers can scan images of the bears on cans using the Coca-Cola app to reveal action scenes like snowball fights.