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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Social Marketing, aka Pepsi Points

Back in the 90's, Pepsi was one of the first companies to actively pursue a social media campaign. The campaign, Pepsi Points:" Drink Pepsi, collect points, get cool stuff!"

 The Pepsi points promotion was considered an early social marketing strategy because it required consumers to actively engage in the purchase and consumption of Pepsi cola.

Back in the 90's interactive media, was just a fantasy for some uber geeks. The prospect of soliciting consumer engagement beyond a grass roots appeal was a sci-fi fantasy. In the early 90's Pepsi was busy pushing its "taste test challenge," the taste test was a huge success fro the brand. Pepsi was made more visible, relatable, and better tasting through the series of community involvement. The taste test concluded that when out of context, North Americans prefer the taste of Pepsi over coke.

Some brainy marketing exec at Pepsi, must have been smoking a cigar and looking at the results. I  imagine him saying: "All those coke drinkers, don't know crud, they don't even like coke. hum...Can we buy Pepsi drinkers?" and Voila, the introduction of the Pepsi Points Campaign.

Now, I'm not sure if Pepsi new what it was doing. Or if it new the value of a million in the 90's, not 60's. 7 million points for a fighter jet? Really, Is this a Dr. Evil type underestimation of value? Sure, 7 million points is a lot, but certainly not unattainable.

Enter John Leonard, a Florida man who collected the 7 million points, and wants his jet. When the Pepsi Point first aired, I was still in elementary school; and even then I recognized that the plane was a fake prize. Seriously, who in their right mind needs a Harrier jet; and why would the company give away a 23 million dollar aircraft for the equivalent of $700,000?  The Jet was a tactic to increase the campaign visibility, and attention, not a feasible redemption item.

After the suit by Leonard was filled, Pepsi pulled the original commercial from air and re-released an edited version, increasing the point value of the Harrier Jet.

Leonard himself collected only 15 Pepsi points, and sought to buy the remaining 6,999,985 points for 10cents a piece. Leonard's stunt was dismissed in courts. This early social marketing campaign showcases some of the potential miscommunication involved in social media campaigns. 

The various mediums do not translate regional or individual humor well. Jokes, and sarcasm in advertising do not translate. An attention grabbing promotion, can be understood in a very peculiar and in an unintended manner.  As we move forward into the twilight of unknown marketing frontiers, it be comes apparent that truthful and realistic messages need to be crafted and more importantly conveyed-to minimize global misunderstanding and brand frustrations. 

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