Past and Current agency: JWT since Pepsi entered India in 1989
Going back in time
PepsiCo entered India in 1989 and has grown to become one of the country’s leading food and beverage companies. Today, PepsiCo India’s expansive portfolio includes refreshment beverages Pepsi, 7UP, Mirinda and Mountain Dew, in addition to low calorie options such as Diet Pepsi; Aquafina drinking water, isotonic sports drink Gatorade, Tropicana fruit juices, and juice-based drinks – Tropicana Nectars, Tropicana Twister and Slice.
Pepsi has always been brand that embodies the most prevalent youth sentiment. Over the years as ‘youth’ has evolved, so have Pepsi’s positioning and language. It has, however, consistently stood for what the youth stands for – right from ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ to ‘Yeh Hai Youngistaan Meri Jaan’.
Pepsi has always been known for its interesting ads. Hari Krishnan, VP, JWT Delhi, elaborated, “There have been several campaigns over the years. Each campaign has had an objective and the ads were conceptualised based on the campaign objective. However, the core philosophy of refreshing the youth and giving them something new has never changed.”
Krishnan added, “The current Pepsi tagline is ‘Yeh Hai Youngistaan Meri Jaan’. A few memorable ones over the years are: ‘The choice of a new generation’ (1990), ‘Yeh hi hai right choice baby, Aha’ (1992), ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ (1999), ‘Yeh Pyass hai Badi’ (2004), and now, ‘Yeh Hai Youngistaan Meri Jaan’. They have changed with the changing youth and their dominant sentiment in India.”
He further said, “Over the years, various celebrities have been associated with brand Pepsi. India is a country with two big obsessions – Cricket and Bollywood. These two platforms have given India their youth icons, whom the youth has always looked up to for inspiration, trends, etc. Hence, talking the youth language through these celebrities has given the brand just the right connect with its target audience. Since its inception, Pepsi has been successfully associated with celebrities from these two fields, making it the number one cola amongst the youth. Over the years, we’ve had various celebs that have had a long standing relationship with the brand, and which has been mutually beneficial.”
The advertising strategy
Speaking on the advertising strategy for brand Pepsi, Krishnan said, “The one quality that makes an ad endearing is when it talks the youth language, and changing this language as the youth change with time has been the key reason for the Pepsi ads to make an impact. Also, giving the youth new phrases and language to express themselves, for example, Pepsi expressions (Yeh Dil Maange More, Yeh Hai Youngistaan Meri Jaan), a new language (use of Hinglish was introduced by Pepsi), etc. In fact, the youth of India do not only consume Pepsi, but they have an appetite for Pepsi advertising. They eagerly wait for the next Pepsi ad to refresh their world.”
Krishnan further said, “The youth over generations have had an irreverent side to them, although the expression of irreverence has changed. As a brand, Pepsi stands for this irreverent side of the youth, which truly reflects in all the pieces of communication that we have done in the past and are executing now.”
An onlooker’s perspective
Giving his take on brand Pepsi and its advertising, Prathap Suthan, NCD, Cheil Communications, observed, “I don’t think Pepsi, the brand, has evolved. I don’t think its advertising has allowed it to evolve and grow. It has been deliberately and almost ruthlessly made to stay young. Their core target audience has always remained cast in stone, and while their transient target audience has biologically grown from children to youngsters, who further raged into adulthood, Pepsi has ensured that the Pepsi brand stayed within strictly defined parameters. Whether the quality of the advertising has evolved, is another question. But the heart of the brand has been cryogenically engineered and almost genetically frozen to stay a permanent 16. And therein lay the success of the brand. An unwavering definition of itself, and a steadfast obeisance to its DNA.”
Suthan further said, “From the time it had made its real appearance in India with ‘Yeh hi hai right choice baby, aha’ to ‘There’s nothing official about it’ to ‘Yeh dil maange more’ to ‘Yeh pyaas hai badi’ to ‘Oye bubbly’ and to ‘Yeh hai Youngistaan meri jaan’, the brand has kept refreshing itself around its brand blueprint. It has really not veered from its self-allotted territory and tried its luck elsewhere. It has dropped anchor to stay and has without doubt remained youthful and true to its given ambit of operations.”
”But I also sense a change in their direction. I could be wrong. But I think I am speaking from a point of view triggered by their rather unfortunate yet mammoth Blue Billion cricket campaign. I think the brand is now depending more and more on Bollywood. After all, actors don’t play real cricket and they also don’t painfully lose occasionally. They can do what they want. And people will applaud hysterically when they slay fire spitting dragons. Or keep slashing leather with willow in make believe matches. The young do not rise on the wings of lilting winds. They need howling tempests. They like sound and fury. They like thrusting pelvises. They like quicksilver. They like celebrities. And they like their young icons to be young icons. Not pretenders. Pepsi hopefully will not mature to take on softer values, and will not give up its crackling vantage point,” Suthan added.
“It will evolve with the times, it will change its T-shirts and shoes, it will cut its hair differently at a different salon, it will throw out old music and bring in cutting edge music, it will refresh its ambassadors, it will dump its girlfriends and seek prettier ones, it will show the exit door to those who are young today, but Pepsi the brand will perpetually rock on as a whimsical and rebellious 16-year old,” he concluded.