tava and pepsi miss the point

To build trust between a consumer and a brand, people need to feel they’re sharing it with other people instead of a corporation pushing it down on them… The goal is to have people experience the product on their own terms and turn them into brand ambassadors.” -Frank Cooper, vice president for flavored carbonated soft drinks at Pepsi-Cola North America

Pepsi is apparently releasing a new fruit-flavored sparkling drink, called Tava, through what the New York Times calls an unconventional approach — by placing banner ads on popular websites, through which they hope to draw visitors to their product website.


Interestingly, Pepsi is not trying to reach young people — the much sought-after “Digital Natives” — through their banner ads and website, but a group they refer to as “Digital Reborns.”

There used to be an assumption this target was not online… But there’s a group in that category that’s ‘reborn digital.’ They’ve lived through the change and learned to adapt to it.” -Frank Cooper

Targeted at 35-49-year-old women and men, the soft drink is promoted on its website through an odd combination of straightforward, though limited, actual product information (flavor selection, nutritional information, etc.), alongside information about music festivals and artists whose connection to the brand is largely left unexplained.

The company is also trying to reach influencers by providing free samples to employees of Google, Apple, and MTV, as well as at events like plays, concerts, and festivals (presumably the ones highlighted on the product website).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this — it all seems like a pretty standard new product roll-out, using internet ad buying and sampling events to promote positive word-of-mouth.

It just seems like there’s something missing, namely, a motivation and a method for the “targets” to start talking about the product, in a way that makes them feel like the company might be listening, and caring.

The problem is that after one or two points of contact with the product (ad, sample, word-of-mouth), the interested and engaged consumer gets turned unceremoniously over to a static website where they are only allowed to consume information, not provide feedback or contribute to the conversation in any other way.

I care about this because I care about the example that major brands are setting in online marketing. I think large nonprofits with an interest in and a budget for online marketing look to these major brands as models of Doing It Right, and I think that this major brand might be Missing The Point.

It isn’t enough any more to lead a horse to water. You have to be willing to splash around with us, too, and get a little wet yourself.

The experience of being led to the Tava website and then just left there made me feel like I had been gotten, like I’d been rickrolled. As a healthy member of Tava’s target demographic, I am used to being asked my opinion about things when I grace your website with my presence.

A poll? A comment section? A forum? An honest blog?

Without this implied question mark, this open ear, this blank space ready for me to fill in, I feel used, ignored, and undervalued.

Why would I recommend something like that to my friends?

You should date my ex-boyfriend. He won’t shut up about himself, he doesn’t ask your opinion, he doesn’t listen if you give it, but he’s pretty sure he knows what kind of music you’ll dig anyway.



2 responses to “tava and pepsi miss the point

  1. Oh, that’s so true, Beth – and the missed-boat situation would be as funny as your ex-boyfriend analogy, if it weren’t rather sad. No doubt there’s a huge budget and all sorts of professional marketing expertise behind that campaign, and yet they do miss the one main point about how the internet works. I think I’m going to get a rubber stamp for this (or perhaps a key-combo macro) that will save repetition – surface appearances to the contrary, the internet is about active conversation, not passive consumption.

    And the really frustrating bit is that it’s clearly not a question of limited resources. And even if this weren’t a giant corp, online interaction can be so easy and affordable: a simple poll that asks my preference in flavours would help to establish a point of contact with the product… and who knows? The company might even learn a useful thing or two about their potential customers, if they took a minute to listen!

  2. “I care about this because I care about the example that major brands are setting in online marketing. I think large nonprofits with an interest in and a budget for online marketing look to these major brands as models of Doing It Right..”

    “the internet is about active conversation”

    This is what I’m thinking, but I was also thinking maybe a lot of people think I’m crazy. So count me a regular reader!

    The great irony is that charities actually have something to talk about: changing the world!

    And DotComs don’t really have anything to talk about at all.
    “Gosh, this bubbly sugar water is fabulous.”

    Why oh why follow them!?!

    The way I see it: dotComs (commercial brands) have an affinity for the one-to-many address of the mass media – let me tell you about this product – and dotOrgs have a natural affinity for the conversational media of the internet – let’s change the world.

    DotOrgs are supremely advantaged by cheap, ubiquitous, democratic, conversational media. We’re community-based organizations and an unimaginably powerful community-building tool just fell into our laps.

    Charities need to be leaders in internet marketing. Just means stop following. And charities need to be leaders of the internet communities that form around the issues that concern them. Otherwise communities will form without them. Charities need communities more than communities need charities.

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