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Can a Soda Save the World?

OMG: Pepsi has set out to save the world one carbonated-caramel-colored-sugar-water-swilling consumer at a time. Have you seen their new campaign? It features the bubblegum psych-pop sounds of the Apple’s tune, “Energy,” with a Pepsi logo bouncing to the beat highlighting simple inspirational words that will better mankind.

The spot actually really grabbed my attention at first. It’s fun, and perky, and kind of hip, and very, very poppy. And it’s a good thing they’re only 30-seconds long, because the Apples are as sugary as the soda.

Then this: I came across a campaign billboard around the corner from my Phoenix home this morning, and on it was this gratuitous community-building website: refresheverything.com.  I had a hunch I knew what was coming next.  This is no fun-loving, bouncy campaign to sell me a soda.  No, Pepsi is out to change the world, and the site proves it. Have you been there?  It’s bold and aspirational, in a Pepsi sort of way. It reads:

Every generation refreshes the world, with their ideas, talents, and the knowledge that they can do anything they set their minds to.  This is where that spirit comes to life. A place to refresh our culture and our country. Check back soon for new opportunities to change our world into a fresher, funnier, much better place.

I love the sentiment, but come on.  I don’t buy that Pepsico is really out to create a greater world. Like their theme song, this is a bubblegum attempt to coattail the giddy enthusiasm around the Obama, “Green,” and “We don’t really suck that much as a country, do we?” movements. Check out their sub-logo at the bottom of the billboard, on their website, and in their spots.  A not-so-subtle take on the recycling bit.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for fun, and colorful, and bubblegummy pop music and art to brighten my spirits from time-to-time. (BTW, sugar and caffeine have the same effect on me, right before the crash). But I’m just not into it when a cola company is trying to build community around creating a new world order with their soda pop. It leaves me flat.

What are your thoughts about their integrated campaign? Does the creative work for you?  Will you be tempted to return to the website to see their progress at, “Refreshing the world?” What if they aren’t succesfful refreshing the world? Will you be mad? Will you be one of the only 1700 or so people to view their spot on their youtube channel? Is this some horrible attempt at green-, or blue-, or bubblegum pink-washing that actually tarnishes a brand? Or am I just being cynical?

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3 Comments On This Topic
  1. Pete Walsh posted
    January 5, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I think they are doing what everyone is trying to do…fight for a spot in your mind…oh yeah so you might eventually think of them when you are about to make a purchase. I think they (and all of us) should be held accountable to our impact on the planet. In what ways are they actually refreshing the planet? I’ll tell you what might be more important…are they refreshing their employees? The companies that will thrive (in my opinion) are the ones that have not only an engaging message for their target consumers but also a message their workforce can embrace and get behind. Ultimately, no advertising will sell a poor product and people are such a key ingredient to your product.
    Having said all of that, I’m done with the sugaring carmel colored water! They ought to be perfecting their green tea and pure water.
    Keep getting us stirred up Park!

  2. Park posted
    January 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Thanks Pete, for your comment. What they need is a killer corporate coach!

  3. Green marketing - 10 sutainable brands and their stories | ParkHowell.com posted
    June 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

    [...] Pepsi is trying to turn their soda into a movement with their “Refresh Everything Project.” I mention it because it has the DNA of exactly what I’m talking about. They’ve taken a commodity product and are trying to make it stand for something bigger than colored sugar water. I’m just not sure how well it’s working for the big guy. What do you think? Can a soda save the world? [...]


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