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Pepsi “Throwback”

January 6, 2010

Let’s get the facts on the table first. I’m a Coke man. Always have been, always will. Specifically, I’m a Coke Zero kind of guy.  I hate Pepsi. I don’t dislike it. I hate it. I won’t drink it. If I go into a restaurant that doesn’t pour Coca-Cola products, then I either order tap water or brewed tea. No exceptions.

Having said that, from a purely objective marketing standpoint, I don’t understand the Pepsi “Throwback” campaign. The retro packaging is interesting enough. And with limited time availability (Dec 22 – Feb 22), it seems as though they are creating a sense of urgency. But then they add the clarifying line:  “made with REAL sugar”.

And that’s where the questions begin.

If the “Throwback” drink is made with REAL sugar, then what is in their CURRENT product? I know, I know, it’s probably “high-fructose corn syrup” (HFCS). Which while probably not the greatest thing for me, MUST be at least OK, right? I mean, would the government allow unhealthy ingredients in my food? (Don’t answer that).

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about HFCS.

Research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn’t intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity.

While research continues…regularly including these products in your diet has the potential to promote obesity — which, in turn, promotes conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Am I the only one now wondering about and researching the health impact of HFCS?

And that’s what I don’t get about the Pepsi campaign. They have highlighted the fact that the “Throwback” beverages are made with REAL sugar—a product benefit. But they chose to highlight that fact at the detriment to all of their “regular” products that are not made with real sugar. By comparison, their “regular” line-up is somewhere on the scale between “fake” or “manufactured” but all below the higher satisfier of being “real”.

Where is the benefit  of a campaign that highlights potential negatives about your main product line? I am not following the logic.

Maybe this is just a ‘teaser’ phase of a larger campaign that hasn’t been revealed yet and the Pepsi marketing brain-trust are geniuses. OR maybe they are too close to their product (and too enamored with the retro packaging) that they didn’t give enough thought to their product benefit line.

Time will tell.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan / Falcon permalink
    January 9, 2010 8:22 pm

    Okay, you hate Pepsi so I wouldn’t expect this to make a whole lot of sense, but IT’S THE TASTE! Pepsi made with real sugar tastes much better to many of us [not everyone — it does taste different and for some people different=bad]. Coke made with real sugar tastes better to me too – you can get it imported from Mexico. But for those of us who prefer the taste without the importing, Pepsi throwback is just the stuff.

    And the February 22 deadline just tells me how long I have to go out and buy cases of the stuff before it’s too late!

    • marketingchief permalink*
      January 15, 2010 8:58 pm

      Thanks for your comments. I think your point is exactly what I was trying to communicate. You LOVE the new taste. You are going to buy cases of it before it expires. SO my question: doesn’t that damage the brand of regular Pepsi…the stuff made WITHOUT real sugar? I would argue that it does.

      • Roni permalink
        January 21, 2010 5:10 pm

        I would say that Pepsi has brand equity. While the “real” sugar tastes better, if a person chooses Pepsi over say Coke, they will continue to do so even after you can’t get the “real” sugar variety. That is the loyalty of a Pepsi drinker. Perhaps you could see it that the “real” sugar comment is that it takes you back to when that’s how things were done. The ’60s and ’70s. That was a very much different time than we have now. The term throwback says to me “lets take a journey to the past”….a past when the world was not so bad like it is now. Our world and society so much more chaotic than it was. Maybe Pepsi wants to remember how things use to be. God knows I would rather remember those times than the world we live now. Just a different perspective. From a marketing standpoint and Pepsi consumer, I love the “throwback” campaign.

  2. January 29, 2010 5:58 pm

    Very informative article with lots of useful info – thxs. Keep up the good work.

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