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Keep the main thing the main thing

Pepsi's social media efforts have fallen a bit flat.

The idea behind the program was that you, the consumer, got to engage with Pepsi by voting for the "Refresh" projects you deemed most worthy. There were also other opportunities to engage through an enormous online effort -- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, website, blogs. Millions of dollars were also spent in what might be called "traditional advertising in support of social media."

Skeptics have been eagerly awaiting a report card on this initiative as it is the first real test case for a major brand implementing a massive transfer of marketing resources from traditional advertising to social media.

The results are now in. It has been a disaster.
  • Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi had each lost about 5% of their market share in the past year.
  • If my calculations are correct, for the Pepsi-Cola brand alone this represents a loss of over $350 million. For both brands, the loss is probably something in the neighborhood of 400 million to half-a-billion dollars.
  • For the first time ever Pepsi-Cola has dropped from its traditional position as the number two soft drink in America to number three (behind Diet Coke.)
  • In 2010, Pepsi's market share erosion accelerated by 8 times compared to the previous year.
The Refresh Project accomplished everything a social media program is expected to: Over 80 million votes were registered; almost 3.5 million "likes" on the Pepsi Facebook page; almost 60,000 Twitter followers. The only thing it failed to do was sell Pepsi.

That's because the point of the "Refresh" project was to make people associate Pepsi with all these do-gooder projects, not sell Pepsi products.

Now there's nothing wrong with giving away corporate money to worthy causes, (heck, a good portion of my current salary relies on companies doing just that), but the purpose of Pepsi isn't to be another Carnegie Foundation, the purpose of Pepsi is to sell fizzy sugar water.

I like companies that know they're not just about the bottom line, but a company that neglects the bottom line for a higher purpose (ANY higher purpose) isn't a company that's in business for very long, and it's a company that soon realizes that bankruptcy DEFINITELY doesn't save the world.

“Keep the main thing the main thing”