We are lucky. How many countries can boast of having grown up seeing their head of government as a showbiz personality? Er...USA, Ukraine - never mind, we are not as unique as I thought!
Anyhow, during my teens, Pepsi used the handsome, chiseled facade of our current PM, Imran Khan, who was not only our premier cricket player but a celebrity throughout the cricket playing world. Unless you are as old as me, do you still hear “Have a Pepsi day”? Oh, those heady days. Pepsi was making serious inroads in the Pakistani markets on the back up of brand endorsements from cricketers and a young and upcoming band called Vital Signs. They were everywhere. In the field, on the stage, on billboards, in magazines, on album covers, on TV and radio - you name it.
None of which could induce me to switch from Coke. I still maintain that Coke not only tastes better, their marketing reflects a belief in the product - a refreshing beverage, no more, no less. Pepsi, by contrast, attempts to sell you a lifestyle and “coolness”, thereby defeating themselves. But that’s just me - and about a billion others who have a Coke every day!
Still, while most other soft drinks ran their tried and tested international campaigns, Pepsi became aggressively local, even if their branding and imagery remained foreign born. At any point in time they had an impressive array of celebrity endorsers.
However, from time to time questions have been raised about some of their decisions. From changing the primary brand color to blue, to the baffling new logo, it has been a series of misfires. The logo, by the way, reminds many of a rotund belly, precisely depicting the result of consuming any cola drink in the amount recommended by their advertising. For me, it’s like looking in the mirror!
Over the decades, Pepsi has had quite a few memorable taglines such as “The Choice of a New Generation”, or the aforementioned “Have a Pepsi Day”, across several markets. Then they had GeneratioNext. More recently they have been using “Live for Now” and “For the Love of It” internationally.
Now, in a major move, Pepsi have announced that from now on, their common tagline for all their products across the US will be “That’s What I Like”. The tagline is short and straightforward, although at this point it is not winning critical acclaim. Some think it a less catchy and watered down rehash of McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ it”. It is also a natural extension of their global tagline, "For the Love of It"
The commercials around this new tagline are disappointingly generic, showing people dancing badly before drinking a Pepsi and dancing well after drinking one, or taking a sip (read: trip) and then ‘hallucinating’ there are successful performers on the world stage. Been there, still doing that. The premise by the brand’s marketers is that Pepsi drinkers are “a little bit extra”.
“Pepsi drinkers are really distinct from other cola drinkers – they’re some of the most passionate and loyal people out there,” said Todd Kaplan, VP Marketing for Pepsi. “Not just their love of Pepsi, they’re a little bit extra. Pepsi drinkers are comfortable in their own skin; they really enjoy their life unapologetically without worrying what other people think.”
Only time will tell if this new strategy is successful. There is a subtle shift from conformity to individuality but none of this is conveyed by the tagline alone. From the looks of it, at this point Coke should not worry too much about its status as top dog - globally, and in my own refrigerator!
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night. email@example.com