DIRECT: MARKETING CHALLENGE - How the band led the brand to expand Pepsi’s market share/Pepsi’s Spice Girls on-pack promotion proved effective in boosting sales over the summer, Ali Qassim says

Coca-Cola may claim it won the cola wars long ago, but it ignores ongoing battles with its chief rival at its peril. Take the recent onslaught by Pepsi. It not only notched up a record gain in market share during the summer, it did so at Coke’s expense. So what was the formula that put the fizz into Pepsi sales? The link-up with the Spice Girls tells only part of the story. It’s down to an effective use of the all-girl band in a massive promotional campaign.

Coca-Cola may claim it won the cola wars long ago, but it ignores

ongoing battles with its chief rival at its peril. Take the recent

onslaught by Pepsi. It not only notched up a record gain in market share

during the summer, it did so at Coke’s expense. So what was the formula

that put the fizz into Pepsi sales? The link-up with the Spice Girls

tells only part of the story. It’s down to an effective use of the

all-girl band in a massive promotional campaign.



Signing up 1997’s music phenomenon seems like a safe start. (Although

wasn’t Pepsi taking a gamble in offering up to 400 fans a trip to

Istanbul to see the group’s first live concert. What if they couldn’t

sing?). But Pepsi points out that in late 1996, when it sat down with

its agencies - Broadcast Innovations, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and

Claydon Heeley International - nobody predicted the scale of the group’s

success. ’We got them just before the crest of the wave,’ Adrian Troy,

brand group manager at Britvic, Pepsi’s UK franchise holder, says.



But the deal, aimed at reinforcing the brand’s appeal to its core

teenage market, was not in itself a new step for Pepsi. After all, the

brand’s musical heritage goes back 60 years and, in the most recent

past, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan and MC Hammer have

all signed a series of sponsorship deals with Pepsi.



What was going to give an edge to this promotion? A unique simple and

powerful proposition, Martin Brooks, group account director at the sales

promotion specialist, Claydon Heeley, explains.



’We tried to think what was the most powerful thing you can offer

consumers.’



Claydon Heeley came up with the following proposition: collect 20 pink

ring-pull tabs from promotional Pepsi cans, send them off and receive a

free Spice Girls CD single, Step to Me, which is unavailable in the

shops. In addition, collectors enter a prize draw to see the band in

Turkey.



’Communication is everything,’ Brooks says. The maxim driving the

campaign became ’say one thing and say it loudly’.



The summer on-pack promotion formed an integral part of Pepsi’s

marketing strategy and was not simply a separate element tagged on at

the end - a frequent misconception made by brands in promotional

campaigns.



The pounds 1 million ’generation next’ TV campaign that ran alongside

the promotion spelt out that the only way to listen to the new single

was to buy Pepsi. The Capital Radio DJ, Dr Fox, relayed the same message

on the Pepsi Chart Show. An extensive PR campaign also ran in the

national and regional press and teen magazines. Activities tailored to

multiple grocers were planned, including opportunities to win Spice Girl

rucksacks, signed song sheets, Pepsi Music branded Sony Discmans,

sweatshirts and T-shirts. Sainsbury’s offered Spice Girls posters.



When in late July the first of the 92 million promotional packs appeared

with their pink flashes, pink ring pulls, pink bottle caps and Spice

Girls graphics, the message to the consumer was clear.



Coke’s ’thirst for it’ promotion, which ran simultaneously, reveals how

easy it is to provide great prizes (have a cappuccino with the cast of

Friends or carry the Olympic torch in Japan) but without a unified

theme.



Troy says the campaign has succeeded in creating new behaviour patterns

among its core teenage market. Britvic estimates that between 450,000

and 500,000 CDs have so far been redeemed. Multiply this figure by 20

cans and you get an impressive number of sales. Troy adds that the

redemption rate is reaching the 10 per cent mark, a significant rise on

previous promotions such as last Easter’s Star Wars theme.



AC Nielsen MEAL figures reveal that Pepsi’s volume share of the cola

market rose from 15.1 per cent from the weekend of 12 July to 19.6 per

cent for the weekend of 9 August. Meanwhile, Coke’s volume share went

down from 51.6 per cent to 48.3 per cent. Significantly, Pepsi’s value

share also rose in the same period from 18.7 per cent to 23.5 per

cent.



Will the Spice Girls be used for Pepsi’s Christmas campaign? Or has the

much-heralded demise of the band made Pepsi rethink its association? All

Troy will say is that Pepsi will continue to use music promotional

activity to push its status as a cola for youth.



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