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Pepsi.com Brand Marketing Website Case Study

Pepsi.com, a Very Successful Brand Site, Chose a Target Audience, Explored the Audience’s Needs, Determined Their Own Business Goals, and Designed a Smash Hit of a Site

The first question everyone asks: “Why would anyone go to Pepsi.com?” This is because we mostly think of the Web as a distribution vehicle. We think of ordering books at Amazon, or reading content at CNN, or downloading music from MTV. How do you drink a soda on a computer screen?

So, who goes to Pepsi.com? Load up the fun, entertainment-packed Pepsi.com and it’s obvious in a glance. The site is clearly designed to attract and entertain teens and young adults, the current target demographic for Pepsi. The strategy works, Pepsi.com ranked #4 by visits in the Food and Beverage Brand category, (Coca-cola.com ranked #14) by Hitwise. But if you can’t sell anything on your site, why devote the human resources, time and budget to create it? In other words, what’s the payback?

  • The goal of the branding website is to use the opportunity to strengthen the brand identity, to build upon the intangible emotional connection in the mind of the loyal consumer.
  • Pepsi.com is an excellent example of a branding website—the use of colors, logos and complete look and feel integrate well into the overall brand image.
  • They have fully integrated online and offline marketing, with offline promotions driving traffic to the site, and online promotions gathering more information from visitors for offline marketing efforts.
  • The site has interactive functions that encourage repeat visits and viral marketing, including downloads, online games and music mixing applications.
  • Pepsi chose a target audience (teens and young adult consumers), found out what they want (entertainment, music and sports), determined their own business goals (build the brand, traffic and awareness) and designed a smash hit of a site.

Pepsi, as a fast moving consumer goods (fmcg) site, will not experience large Web traffic volume by default. Consumers know they can’t buy anything here. Since a soda isn’t a very complex product, consumers won’t even think about additional information needs, other than perhaps a slight, occasional interest in nutrition. So what should Pepsi put on the consumer website? The Internet Advertising Bureau said of PepsiWorld.com: “The site is not about soft drinks; it is about entertainment and youth culture. An entertainment Web site is certainly more likely to attract users than one devoted to soft drinks.”

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This isn’t a recommendation that all consumer product branding sites enter the entertainment biz. For example, Pillsbury highlights recipes on Pillsbury.com, and a consumer service provider might offer white papers or case studies. For Pepsi’s brand strategy, music, sports, entertainment and cross-promotions are the best way to extend the Pepsi brand into youth culture.

Pepsi.com, which is also PepsiWorld.com

The Brand Website—The Business Strategy

If you can’t sell anything on your site, why devote the human resources, time and budget to create it? In other words, what’s the payback?

The economic model of a Brand website is similar to mass media advertising. While the Internet is still a developing medium, the basic principles of brand marketing remain. Because of the unique measurement abilities of the Internet, most sites take a direct marketing approach, watching the conversion metrics like hawks. There is a different measurement for the success of a brand website. The goal of the branding site is to use the opportunity to strengthen the brand identity, to build upon the intangible emotional connection in the mind of the loyal consumer.

An excellent example for a branding site, Pepsi.com has hit the key components:

  • A clear brand identity—the site’s colors, use of logos and complete look and feel integrate well into the overall brand image
  • Fully integrated online and offline marketing, with offline promotions driving traffic to the site, and online promotions gathering more information from visitors for offline marketing efforts
  • Interactive functions that encourage repeat visits and viral marketing, including downloads, online games and music mixing applications.

Pepsi.com has interactive functions that encourage repeat visits and viral marketing, including music mixing applications.

Corporate Brand and Web Presence

While the famous soft drink was first tasted in the 1890s, today’s Pepsi is the star of PepsiCo, “a world leader in convenient snacks, foods and beverages, with revenues of about $29 billion and over 153,000 employees.” One way to get a handle on the incredible value of the Pepsi brand is to look at these two metrics. Pepsi’s advertising expenses in the first half of 2005 were $140 million; and Interbrand has estimated the 2005 Pepsi Brand Value at over $12 billion.

With a company that size, the parties interested in the Pepsi website will be a large and diverse group. And they will all walk through the same front door—the URL, “www.Pepsi.com.” The best sites are designed with the visitor needs first, and this holds true for a brand site as well. How should a consumer product brand company like PepsiCo prioritize the visitors—and therefore the design—of Pepsi.com? While all company sites receive visitors looking for investment information, business contacts, jobs and media press releases, a fmcg product site has to prioritize the consumer. Pepsi is such a well-known brand that consumers will type in www.Pepsi.com directly. Obviously, if consumers landed on a page lauding the latest stock increases for investors, it would be a terrible brand experience. Pepsi has only one chance, only one front door with the www.Pepsi.com URL. They have rightly chosen to design the site with the consumer’s needs put first. Global navigation can bring the other stakeholders to the sites created for their needs, such as PepsiCo.com or Pepsijobs.com.

Not only does the Pepsi.com URL have to talk to consumers, but all the products have to have their own branded URL. Pepsi launched their consumer site as Pepsiworld.com, but as consumers will type the brand name “Pepsi” into their URL bar, the URL Pepsi.com directs to the same site as PepsiWorld. For corporate related information, the company has the URL PepsiCo.com. In fact, we aren’t talking about a single URL, we’re talking about an entire URL strategy, with a unique URL for every possible visitor and visitor need. Every product within the Pepsi family has it’s own URL that matches the name of the product: DietPepsi.com; PepsiOne.com, Pepsilime.com, etc…. On Pepsi.com the company can rotate select promotions to the websites of other products such as Sierra Mist or PepsiLime. The management of URLs is a part of the overall brand strategy: planning and budgeting, managing and protecting each one with as much vigor as any other brand touchpoint.


PepsiLime.com


PepsiCo.com

Site Goals and Tactics

Launched in 1996, PepsiWorld.com, and Pepsi.com answers the two most important questions that must be asked before the first line of code can be written:

  1. What do you want from your visitors?
  2. What do your visitors want from you?

The goal for the brand manager is to push the consumer along the typical brand stages of awareness, consideration, preference and hopefully, loyalty. Even more, the interactive nature of the Web should not just build the brand experience, it should integrate the brand so deeply into the visitors mind that it becomes part of who they are, something that doesn’t require thought. When sitting at a restaurant and asked what they want with their hamburger and fries, “Pepsi” should come out of their mouths before their mind has even registered the question.

And what do the visitors want? Obviously the typical consumer isn’t sitting around wondering what Pepsi has been up to lately. In particular, the young audience that Pepsi targets, wants what they always want: entertainment, fun, excitement. Offer them sports tickets, free music videos, contests and freebies, and they’ll load Pepsi.com on the browser.

Pepsi is targeting teens and young adults—a natural audience for the online channel. With 30 percent of households with broadband at home, Web video is getting ready for the big time. Some studies have shown that the young audience spends more time in front of the computer screen than the TV screen. Pepsi has made the most of the opportunity. A run-down of the some of the highlights from the last few years:

  • 2001—Britney Spears’ first Pepsi commercial, aired during the Superbowl, is posted on the Pepsi website, receiving 2 million visits.
  • 2002—PepsiStuff.com lets consumers redeem points online for over half a million prizes.
  • 2004—Pepsi partners with Apple iTunes to give away 100 million free songs, with winning codes found in Pepsi bottles and redeemable at iTunes Music Store.
  • 2005—Pepsi partners with Yahoo!, bringing PepsiSmash video segments for free online viewing on Yahoo!’s music site. Included: performances by Coldplay, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani.

It’s worth noting that Coke has followed the same strategy on their consumer site MyCoke.com, building a consumer-oriented website chock full of brand-building downloads, promotions and sticky interactive features. Much like the actual beverages themselves, the similarities outweigh the differences. Both Coca-Cola.com and Pepsi.com use almost all of the following tactics to build their brand in the visitors mind:

  • View the high-production value TV commercials and videos
  • Participate in sweepstakes, contests and promotions to win products or music or sporting event tickets
  • Branded, “cool” downloads including interactive wallpaper and multiple options of stylized screensavers
  • Play online games with others (featuring the logo but not always the product) and chat with other players or members
  • Send e-cards, get party recipes, read about the brand history and test yourself on trivia
  • Music mixing—using provided music cuts, visitors can mix their own track and share it with others.

Community building devices are important here. Many of the features require registration, which allows the marketers permission to re-contact the visitor, and continue the relationship past the single visit.

MyCoke.com

Pepsi’s Way

Not all branding sites are alike, nor should they be. As in all good website design, the business strategy dictates the site contents. Who will visit your site, what do you want from them and what do they want from YOU. Providing the visitor with what they want is the only way to fulfill your business goals. PepsiCo., a huge company with many brands, has chosen a URL strategy and a target audience for their Pepsi.com site. They chose a target audience (teens and young adult consumers), found out what they want (entertainment, music and sports), determined their own business goals (build the brand, traffic and awareness) and designed a smash hit of a site.

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