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
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
’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
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
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
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.