How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
Pepsi and the art of Cool
Rohit Ohri, Senior VP & Area Director-Delhi, J Walter Thompson
In a world where change is the only constant, professional trendspotting is an intricate job. What you decide is cool today may well be cold tomorrow.
How, then, does one get cool, that precious natural resource with the innate ability to create a valuable brand out of an otherwise interchangeable product?
The very first lesson in chasing cool is to cool down! Give up that chase. Trying too hard becomes very obvious and repels the audience you had set out to woo. Cool has to be effortless (Indeed, there is no other kind!) To quote Rankin, publisher of Dazed & Confused: “If you have to try then you’ve already failed; if you want it too bad you’re just chasing your tail”.
Cool is not something a brand can set out to achieve. It is gifted to a brand by the consumer and depends solely on his ever-changing perceptions. Naturally, such a situation is not the easiest to maintain. Those of us who manage cool brands are constantly finding new ways of maintaining the right temperature. And in the process, keeping our cool! (Pun intended.)
Many of us are not cool. I’m not cool. Chances are fairly good, statistically speaking, that you’re not cool either. Now don’t panic. Don’t fret. Remember, cool is an elusive thing. If it weren’t, well, then we’d all be cool, wouldn’t we? How utterly uncool! There has to be someone around to get snubbed in the hallways and sniggered at in the gym.
To get back to the topic, if we’re not cool, how do we recognise cool when we see it?
Actually, it’s fairly simple. Cool brands stand out in a crowd. Bold and confident about being different, they ‘zig while others zag’.
This cool confidence stems from an innate honesty. Cool is all about being natural and true to oneself. A cool brand exposes its true personality to the consumer and in the process endears itself. Clearly, fakers will be exposed.
Brand Pepsi was gifted the cool status by teens when it was launched in India in 1990. ‘Yeh hi hai right choice baby!’ was an iconic brand statement. It was born of a conflict in the minds of teens. What of my Indian heritage and how much of Western influences do I take forward with me?
Rahul, aged 18 – “I want to find a girl for me, myself. But I’ll marry her only with my parents’ consent.”
Divya, aged 17 – “ I don’t mind stints with guys, but I’d rather not get down to sex.”
Pepsi balanced these two influences in the minds of teenagers. ‘You’re cool the way you are’ is what the Brand said. ‘Don’t try to be any different’. And teens reciprocated that very sentiment, wholeheartedly. Pepsi was now the new cool icon.
Since then, deep-freezing Pepsi’s cool status has become an obsession for all of us who manage the brand. What we discovered was that Pepsi’s real custodians were teenagers. The brand was so well formed in their minds that they viciously spat out anything that was not of that form. Be true to yourself, they reminded us every time we strayed. And when we hit bulls eye, we were rewarded.
The ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign was a vivification of brand Pepsi being true to itself. Cheeky, irreverent and irresistibly charming. ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ was yet another cool expression of the way teenagers felt. A reflection of their craving for more from life and all its experiences. For teens waiting eagerly to take on the world, ‘Mera Number Kab Ayega?’ was truly cool.
Teenagers today don’t just dream big. They know exactly how to make those dreams come true. Here and now. That spirit of urgency and ‘nowness’ is captured in the current ‘Yeh Pyaas Hai Badi’ campaign.
The pesticide controversy around bottled soft drinks put Pepsi’s brand character to the acid test. While all other brands screamed ‘we’re safe’, Pepsi announced that it (Pepsi) was ‘not safe’. Not safe from the thirsting eyes of people all around! It was a fun, irreverent way of reassuring consumers about a very serious concern. Irreverence not for irreverence’s sake but based on confidence in both the product and what it stands for.
Teens happily accept safe, middle of the road viewpoints from other brands, but not from Pepsi.
That’s the scene today. But, who knows what might happen tomorrow? It could well be that teenagers tomorrow wean themselves off this addiction to cool. Mainstream could become the new radical, square the new hip. And, hold your breath, uncool the new cool.
In other words, maybe there’s hope for all of us...