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.