When your brand abandons you, and I’m talking about you PEPSI MAX
As a marketer working in the social media space, I spend a fair amount of time talking to colleagues and others about how I engage with my community of customers. How THEY not I determine what my brand is. How THEY are the ones who are out there making my brand what it is. All good stuff that I firmly believe in.
But what happens when the experience is personal, and a brand I like decides it doesn’t want to follow my direction anymore? Take the case of Pepsi Max, formerly known as Diet Pepsi Max. When it came out in 2007, it was marketed as having twice the caffeine and none of the sugar. Those who know me may or may not be aware of my love-hate relationship with soda. Sure, people say it’s not healthy, it’s bad for you, and I tend to agree, but at the same time my motto is “anything in moderation”. A soda a day is not going to be the end of me. Especially when it’s as yummy and caffeine-full as Pepsi Max! It was like a diet version of Jolt Cola. Out of all the soft drinks out there, this is definitely my favorite taste wise. I recall almost firing a co-worker when he bought the last twelve pack of it at a Walgreens in Orlando….trade shows call for the MAX!
Then, all of a sudden, Pepsi moved the branding to position Max as the “diet cola for men.” Not just any men. MANLY men. Which would have been fine if it included men who like to stay up and hand code HTML into the wee hours like the Jolt Cola demographic. But it wasn’t. It was targeting men who flip between NASCAR and the tractor pulls while eating beef jerky and fixing their car engines. In other words, not even kinda sorta me.
Where does that leave me as a consumer? Do I have a problem breaking out a can of Max in public? Do I think maybe this isn’t the product for me? So far, none of this has happened. I still drink it when I need a pick me up, and I don’t think it makes me any less of a woman when I swig from the bottle in public.
It is however an interesting case of what happens when you switch your positioning and intentionally exclude a demographic from your marketing. Do you do this at the risk of losing a key demographic you never knew about? In the case of Pepsi, I am confident that they have done extensive research showing that this product positioning would enhance, not detract from sales. And if I do feel alienated, they have about 100 other soda brands I can move to and still stay within the Pepsi world. Maybe they’d prefer me to do that rather than estrogen up their work on their Max brand. Either way, I’m an informed enough consumer and marketer to know that I like what I like, branding be damned.