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Pepsi’s disappointing new slogan says a lot about its brand strategy and its imagination, as well as

There’s so much to be disappointed about Pepsi’s new ‘slogan’ announcement, that it’s hard to know where to start.

After two decades, Pepsi has seemingly concluded that adopting a new marketing slogan will help them to better explain their brand’s uniqueness and presumably thereby improve their sales and marketing results. I suspect that they are about to find out the limitations of slogans in the process of creating powerful and profitable brands. We are no great fan of slogans in general. They can be useful on occasions for less-known new businesses to be able to say what they are, how they are different and occasionally even, why they do it. They range from the very few who standout, endure and occasionally even become culturally memorable, to the great majority which are bland, meaningless and eminently forgettable. Consider the following couple actual slogans; ‘Tomorrow’s technology, today’, ‘Imagine the unimaginable’ or ‘The essence of modern beauty’, to see how fuzzy and unactionable slogans often are. Frequently they are simply management ego statements and only meaningful internally.

Despite the dubious contribution that a brand slogan can make, Pepsi has apparently spent two decades mulling over the issue and they have finally distilled it in the slogan ‘That’s what I like’. I can’t imagine how much ethnographic and qualitative research went into arriving at this brand statement, but they have certainly taken what can only be described as a glacial approach to articulating what they presumably believe is their greatest brand appeal with this slogan. Even McDonald’s managed to get to their ‘I’m lovin’ it’ line in a fraction of that time, and arguably also managed to produce a more unique and crafted expression by comparison to Pepsi’s ‘That’s what I like’. Certainly, they can’t have sweated the benefit ladder too hard to arrive at it. Its the strategic equivalent of a creative first thought.

Since the 1975’s Pepsi Challenge campaign, they have focused their efforts towards the significant segment of the cola market that demonstrably prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola. Pepsi already has a loyal and consistent segment of customers, based on their personal taste preferences for Pepsi. How then will restating this attract new customer segments and gain market share from other cola brands, notably Coke? Surely this is no more than preaching to the choir. Why now then does Pepsi feel the need for a new slogan to repeat the point? And why then compound it by making it even less engaging by stating it in such a boring way. Say what you will about the depressive blue creative execution, which is a separate matter entirely. Even if if it does now somehow makes sense, what has changed over the last two decades to make it relevant, when it apparently wasn’t so before? Was it just that previous brand management was so myopic, asleep at the wheel and neglected the obvious need? Or is the current management simply out of ideas and hoping a new slogan will somehow give the brand a shot in the arm, and them the illusion of brand management and proactivity?

The scarier point is what this says about the state of professional brand marketing and strategy industry in general. Are we all simply a bunch of tea readers who cast around for a new way of rearranging the past in order to stay relevant by reinventing the wheel? It’s a horrible endorsement of the frequent criticism by the quantitive industries that cast the creative and strategy businesses as simply being the ‘colouring in’ departments.

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