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PepsiCo's MVP: Why consumers are its most valuable partners

PepsiCo's MVP: Why consumers are its most valuable partners Nanette Marcus

It's never been harder to be a marketer than it is right now, but it's also never been a more exciting time, explained Adam Harter, VP of cultural connections at PepsiCo, during the iMedia Brand Summit. And today's landscape is a time when companies like PepsiCo can't survive without quality partnerships.

Think about the exponential rate of change. There's no way a single brand can keep up with it all.

Harter walked attendees through how PepsiCo chooses partnerships, brings it to life, and keeps score.

Who is the enemy?

The first step is to think about the enemy. PepsiCo has identified an enemy we all have -- apathy amongst consumers. PepsiCo's mission is to make people feel again. The war for consumers' time has never been more intense. We're all battling for consumers to give a piece of attention to our brand. PepsiCo needs to know that its partners believe in that battle. Harter explained that his team and its partners are held to other business metrics, but if partners don't believe that they need to win the war on apathy, that may not be the partner for them.

PepsiCo has embraced the idea that one must be a champion of culture to destroy apathy. Pop culture is changing more rapidly. Consumers' tastes are changing rapidly. It used to be sports and music were enough for PepsiCo as a company. But now it has to be much broader to be more authentic. It's had to redefine culture beyond those two categories and into gaming, food, fashion, design, tech, and beyond.

There's a mantra that "culture is not a spectator sport." As PepsiCo builds that, it starts to identify partners.

Harter featured an example of PepsiCo's Mountain Dew brand, which wanted to connect with male multicultural males in urban markets. The brand found an intersection with that market and Mountain Dew's ongoing connection with the midwest outdoor enthusiast, who loves camouflage. As a result, Mountain Dew partnered with an apparel company to develop an interactive art and fashion experience at ComplexCon. It was a big hit that expanded its consumer base.

Are they committed to delivering experiences?

You have to believe in the magic of marketing. It's important to use, not abuse. And the most powerful connection is still a live, high-touch experience that gets consumers out of their seat.

PepsiCo went to Houston for Super Bowl with its new LIFEWTR brand to create an immersive experience, LIFEWTR Art After Dark. Using A/R, V/R, and projection mapping, along with  partnerships with Bruno Mars and Jack Murphy Productions, the transformed a parking lot into a concert venue with art installations.

Will they keep score with us?

Having data helps PepsiCo eliminate waste and helps the team have solid reasoning with its partners. How much retail activation is the partnership getting? What's the media value? That data and other key metrics helps make better partnerships deals with better terms, so it's key to make sure you have partners who value those metrics.

Will they let us in the huddle?

If partners don't let you co-create with them, it's not going to work. Harter highlighted its three-episode arc with the hit show, Empire. Through that partnership the brand was able to create some innovative branding and commercial opportunities. 

Nanette is iMedia Communications' executive editor.   In addition to her roles at iMedia, Nanette has served as a specialist in content marketing, editorial content, public relations and social media for various clients. She's contributed to...

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