Recently Pepsi made the decision to not place any spots on this years Super Bowl, and instead are directing that money to Cause Related Marketing.
I think this is a great move for several reasons specific to Pepsi. As anyone who reads this blog I focus often on Return on Investment. I have a Sales/Finance Background. And while Advertising/Marketing has a big emotional component that the Creative’s use to hook us on products, without Sales and Profits all the money spent marketing gets wasted. The one thing that the Industry has to deal with is the Elephant in the Closet we all ignore, especially the Sales/Finance folks (And CFO’s this means you!). No matter how good the Creative’s are I will use the well beaten saying ‘You can’t put lipstick on a pig, because it is still a pig.’ Why CFO’s think Marketers can do this I am still trying to figure out. As a Sales Person for many years I dealt with the same thing. Reality of the Product, or the Company.
And this is where the Pepsi story and the Super Bowl comes in. While we all love Super Bowl Ads because the brands compete to have the funniest, warmest, most memorable Ads that we will all talk about for a year, most of the brands are 1] known and 2] most people already have their view mostly set on that brand for various reasons. I love the beer commercials and can watch them over and over but I never buy Bud, Miller, or Coors because they are bland to me. Nothing they can do except give it to me for free will change that. The one group who are impressionable would be the 10 to 25 year olds who are still developing their views on what they should be identified with in their life, and this goes for most of the products that get advertised.
The one exception is New Brands, Products, and Promotions. The goal here is to get someone to try it….once. And hope they like it to earn repeat business. For launching new things the Super Bowl has superior reach to everything. Everyone is watching and everyone for once actually would rather miss a play of the game than miss a commercial!
So for Pepsi, most everyone has tried their products and has decided if they like them vs the competition. And I have mentioned before that Point of Sale in the store trumps a lot of Marketing spend. I am a Diet Pepsi drinker. When we stocked up for a Holiday Party the other day Pepsi had a big in store promotion so that is what we bought: Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Sierra Mist. Had it been Coke I would of chosen them because I am not rich, the deal was incredible (Two 24 packs of Pepsi Brands for $10 with a $25 purchase of other goods at Price Chopper Super Market) and I can settle. This covers most people no matter what soda brand you prefer unless money is not an issue.
I asked Rob Schwartz the Chief Creative Officer of TBWA\CHIAT\DAY Pepsi’s Creative Agency if Super Bowl ads sell more Pepsi. He said, “The Super Bowl is more to keep a buzz about your brand in the Pop Culture Conversation.” Talk about a hard sell to the CFO! But then he said, “The goal of the Pepsi Refresh Project is to do some good with our marketing money. The last thing the world needs is another Super Bowl ad. You can quote me for your blog.” Now the CFO is listening.
So what will sway me? What will sway the average Joe and Jane out there if there is a price difference or none at all to buy one brand or another? Social Responsibility! But only when it is fully exposed and known, for good and bad. On a National Scale Nike, Walmart, Exxon have been exposed for bad practices in the Third World and had Non-Profits try to rally boycotts. Brands like Starbucks have earned praise for offering insurance to all workers, even part timers. Everyone knows about the Ronald McDonald House. Unless this is exposed for all to see (good or bad) there will be no impact. That is why Brands often don’t market their own good deeds enough, and why Brands fight to cover up the bad deeds.
But if you do this on a local level, grass roots, this trumps everything. This is direct marketing at it’s finest. If I know that Pepsi helped my community organization, school, park, hospital this could earn my patronage for life. Too many Brands write a check and slap their logo on a Social Cause and think that is enough. Most brands have charities they support. But very few people if asked can name the causes with brands. The best recent one of note was the NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Week for the Susan G Konem for the Cure weekend with many layers wearing pink shoes and accessories. I have also written about the Yoplait Pink Lid Program (which I didn’t give a good review on).
So Pepsi is earmarking $20 million from their marketing budget to support local community programs and initiatives. But even more critical, they are asking Pepsi Drinkers to nominate programs for their support. This is true bottom up from the community sincerity. And that Super Bowl ‘Buzz’ Pepsi is giving up? There has been more articles and free publicity given to Pepsi already from this decision than they will get from the Super Bowl. And in return community programs in need will benefit.
The Marketing Sensei will revisit this program in 2010 to highlight the positive effects on communities and Pepsi’s bottom line. The CFO will be pleased.
In wrapping up the Super Bowl Ad Buy view, I get it. It shows you arrived as a company. It will create a buzz. But it might not increase sales, and during tough economic times Brands should analyze how to get the biggest return for their marketing spend, because Sales and Profits are wonderful things. They help prevent layoffs, increase R&D and Marketing Budgets, and keep Share Holders happy. And even more important allow Brands to give back to the world like the Pepsi Refresh Program is doing.