In October 2009, Pepsi approached HUGE in search of a partner for a history-making campaign. For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi would be redirecting its annual $20 million Super Bowl budget into an ambitious campaign named the Pepsi Refresh Project, aimed at enabling people to do well by doing good. The result was a new breed of marketing platform that would permanently change the way people think about an iconic brand.
HUGE and Pepsi recognized that a new movement was taking hold of the country, not based on geography, ethnicity, or other segregations, but rather, born from a collective optimism. Studies found that 94% of Americans agree that optimism is essential in building new ideas to positively impact the world, and a full 66% believe that the best ideas are more likely to come from normal people as opposed to public figures.
To fully cultivate and celebrate this collective optimism, Pepsi would need to capture this new momentum, and not simply broadcast a message. The overload factor is in full effect, with the average person facing dozens of appeals and petitions each time they check their e-mail. A standalone website that people visit once and forget later wouldn’t be enough to fulfill Pepsi’s benchmarks for customer loyalty, acquisition and engagement.
HUGE laid out a plan for a fully integrated digital initiative that would build on the Refresh Everything program that Pepsi launched in 2009. This new platform allows the average person an opportunity to submit an idea to receive grant money, ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 for a worthy cause. Visitors can vote up to ten times a day on the 1,000 ideas currently in the running, culminating in 32 grant awardees monthly. The entire campaign syncs with offline efforts such as TV, print, outdoor, college programs and retail display.
HUGE developed an overarching social media solution for Pepsi that focused on developing functionality that would actually advance the Refresh Project’s mission. The ambitious undertaking included:
- One Click Sign-in Using Facebook Connect: An alternative to a multi-step sign-up process, individuals can access the site through Facebook, taking advantage of their more than 500 million active users.
- Twitter and Widget Integration: Grant-seekers can promote their projects through a pre-populated Twitter message, embeddable YouTube videos, or an HTML widget to place on any personal blog or site, all of which make it easy to spread and promote their unique messages.
- An Action-Oriented Facebook Application: Visitors can search for current ideas, see what their friends have chosen, vote for their favorite projects and share them throughout the Facebook ecosystem.
- Refresh Ambassadors: HUGE worked with real-world individuals with authentic experience and wisdom in their chosen project area to guide applicants through the process.
- Mobile Platform: HUGE collaborated on a mobile initiative that includes a WAP-enabled version of the site, leading to full-fledged iPhone and Android applications. The applications leverage voting and community aspects, while expanding on the location-based nature of the program.
- Seeding the Influencers: The campaign was jump-started by influencers in the social sphere, who were courted to spread the world and build quick credibility for the initiative.
- Display Advertising: Display advertising was utilized to build awareness for the campaign launch.
HUGE knew that an effort dependent on social interaction—roughly $2 million is given away each month—needed a solid infrastructure behind it. Technical delivery included the implementation of a content management system and a blogging component, as well as integration with voting, database, and e-mail systems.
The Pepsi Refresh Project was an immediate success, tallying over 2.6 million visits when voting launched in February. Each month, the 1,000-slot allotment for ideas fills within seconds. To date, the project has attracted over three billion earned media impressions to date, as well as nearly five million site registrations and 63 million votes. The number of Pepsi’s Facebook fans has also grown tenfold to over three million. Besides claiming prestigious awards such as a Cannes Lion and OMMA Best in Show, a recent study from Forbes and the Reputation Institute found that Pepsi jumped to the No. 5 spot from No. 16 among the country’s most reputable brands, thanks to the Pepsi Refresh effort.
It’s a groundbreaking new way of looking at social media and a corporation’s role in fostering social change. Not only does it inspire its audience to take action, it gives them the tangible tools they need to do so, making Pepsi both the motivator and the enabler. The marketing platform’s overwhelming success and popularity has led to localized versions such as the Do Good for the Gulf campaign, for which Pepsi offered an additional $1.3 million for the best ideas to refresh the Gulf communities, and the Shopper Marketing Program, an initiative with local retailers to spread Pepsi Refresh’s mission.
The Pepsi Refresh Project has evolved to become a global marketing platform for one of America’s most trusted brands, with plans to expand globally in 2011. “Through our Pepsi Refresh Project, we’re going to equip people with the means to bring their ideas to life,” said Jill Beraud, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Americas Beverages. What was once a challenger brand is now the leader of a distinct movement at the forefront of social change.