We learned today that the Pepsi can is changing. Cie Nicholson, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, says the Pepsi can will now change every 3 to 4 weeks. There will be 35 new designs this year, with more to come next.
The Wall Street Journal speculates that the new designs will help Pepsi "connect with the sort attention span of teens and young adults." And this is partly right. Attention spans are now brief. Familiarity comes faster. Boredom descends ever more quickly.
But the more pressing issue is sustaining Pepsi’s brand visibility in a turbulent culture. Stillness and consistency were once a virtue. The old style marketers insisted on keeping things simple and repeating themselves endlessly. Sameness was the name of the game.
New school marketing says the brand must meet change with change. It must stream with dynamism to stay in touch with dynamism. Thirty-five designs in a year. This is precisely what the new school of marketing has in mind.
The new can will help. But by itself it is not enough. Pepsi is going to have to build in dynamic tastes. Now this really contradicts marketing orthodoxy, but I am prepared to wager that Pepsi will be varying its formula by the end of the decade.
The old marketing is built into the big brands so deeply that it is almost impossible to see. This is the challenge for the brand stewards inside the corporation, inside the agency, inside the consulting world. How quickly can we change? And how many of the now great brands will end up pulled down to the ocean floor by the weight of orthodoxy.
You think I’m kidding. Pepsi lives in a declining category and it is still possible for the WSJ to offer this risk analysis:
By changing designs so frequently, Pepsi runs the risk of confusing or alienating consumers who rely on familiar visual cues to find their favorite brands among a change sea of products, some marketing experts say.
Ah, if only doing nothing were still an option
McKay, Betsy. 2007. Pepsi’s New Marketing Dance: Can Can. The Wall Street Journal. January 12, 2007.
Thanks to Gary Beene for the image. For his excellent website on Pepsi history go here.