Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pepsi's Initial Foray Into Cause-Related Social Media

One of my social media students wrote a post about the Pepsi Refresh program a few days ago. It’s on our (closed) Ning community, an interesting story itself. Mark’s post gave me an additional perspective on the program that Pepsi announced in lieu of Super Bowl advertising this year. Thanks, Mark!

It turns out there was a precursor to the Refresh program. It was a $100,000 Green Effect contest which appears to have been a partnership between Sun Chips and National Geographic.

One of the winners was Hingham High School, where Mark’s son is a student. They received $20,000 to build a greenhouse to support a multidisciplinary program at the school. I can’t embed the entry video, but you can see that they’ve got a great ‘spokesperson.’ Both the entry video and the finalist video are linked on this page. The producer is a high school student—watch them both to see what kids can accomplish and the wonderful adults behind this idea.

The marketing point is that Pepsi did a trial program on a much smaller scale before launching the $20,000,000 Pepsi Refresh program. I can’t see any major differences in the two, but I’m willing to bet that Pepsi learned things from the Sun Chips program that made them more confident in dumping Super Bowl TV advertising and launching the social media effort. Is there any way that doesn’t make sense? The program is currently active and appears to be enjoying success. There are over 1 thousand project submissions in just the ecology section this month. You still have time to vote on your choice in any one of the six categories.

Congratulations to Hingham High School (they have a vibrant web site—figures!) for having this idea and the energy to see it through. They have great teachers, great high school kids, and I’m sure they’re going to have a great greenhouse and a lot of worthwhile programs. Be sure you watch the two videos.

I think Mark summed it up well:

So, what do you think about buying your way into the social media conversation? Had you heard about either project? So far, I've not purchased a Sunchip and a Pepsi -- but then again -- I did just send a message to 40 people about it!

You can argue about how Pepsi is going to measure the success of the program. But then, we’ve been arguing for years about how to measure the success of branding efforts in traditional media! Can a program like this—a program that gets consumers actively engaged in supporting an idea for branded funding—can it be any less successful?

P.S. Here are the happy winners on the green house site.

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