Pepsi Cheer – Social Media Done Wrong

The Pepsi Cheer?

The Pepsi Cheer?

Update April 21, 2010: Looks like I was quoted over at Media.asia in Five things you need to know about: Social media and brands by Andrew Knott. Nice to be referenced however briefly.

You’re probably doing Social Media in your Internet Marketing mix, most companies and marketers have jumped on that bandwagon faster than people become Dallas Cowboys fans when they go on a winning streak.

To be honest, chances are if you’re doing Social Media you are most likely completely wasting your time and resources because you’re doing social media badly.

No offense. But the large majority of marketers simple do not use Social Media the same way they might use other forms of media and advertising.

No ROI (Return On Investment). This can also be measured in Brand terms rather than dollar amounts.
No clear and definitive goals.
No strategy.

If you took a few hours, set up a Facebook group, Facebook fan page and Twitter feed then simply post to those profiles then you’re completely wasting your time.

Stop.
Stop Now.

Doing Social Media badly is much worse than not doing Social Media at all.

As with everything in Marketing you need to attach a value, strategy and execution plan to each and every program you put in place. If you don’t then frankly you’re Marketing badly.

Case in point.

Let's pretend this didn't happen, OK?

Let's pretend this didn't happen, OK?

The Pepsi Cheer was an abysmal failure from a Social Media standpoint and from a Marketing standpoint. Here is a good overview from Marketing Mag:

Pepsi Seeking One Million Members for Pepsi Cheer

This campaign was the brain child of the Toronto Agency Capital C (Yeah that's right their corporate website is hosted on Typepad - very edgy).

Before we look at Pepsi’s Social Media Strategy results, let’s have a quick look at what they implemented:

On Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/PepsiCanada
http://www.facebook.com/PepsiCanada#/PepsiCanada?v=app_193041964437

Twitter
http://twitter.com/PEPSICANADA

and

http://www.pepsi.ca/jointhecheer/default.aspx?bhcp=1

Here’s what Pepsi wanted to do:

  1. Create a contest to create a Cheer for Hockey Canada and the 2010 IIHF Mens’s Hockey Championship in Germany.
  2. Have the winning cheer promoted via Social Media, on television and radio.
  3. Have fans at the events use the cheer during the games to be started by Pepsi employees in the crowd (really bad idea).

The winning cheer was an annoying (in my opinion) “Eh! Oh-Canada! Go!” which was a customer submitted cheer and was then heavily promoted through advertising mediums (all listed above).

Now on a fundamental level this idea should have died in a brainstorming session. You never ever mess with the patriotism of Canadian Hockey fans. Here in Canada, Hockey is a big part of people’s sports watching mix and particularly since Canada dominates International Hockey (even though we lost in the finals to the US this past year).

The cheers Canadians have been using for years are pretty popular and there was never a need to add a new one to the mix when it was clearly a very shallow corporate marketing initiative.

Their brutal social media implementation also caused them more brand damage than had they done absolutely nothing. Pepsi and their agency failed to remember one key component of Social Media.

It’s a conversation with people. People can (and should talk back).

The Pepsi Cheer Gone Wrong

The Pepsi Cheer Gone Wrong

This is exactly what people did and it wasn’t pretty.

Let’s look at some very basic stats:

Pepsi’s Facebook Fan Page: 134,926 Fans
Pepsi Canada’s Twitter Profile: 1034 Followers

Basic Negative Results

Pepsi - I Don’t need yer damn cheer
231 members
http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/group.php?gid=259956356825

The" Eh! Oh! Canada Go!" chant is a national embarrassment
64,762 Members
http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/group.php?gid=217528662837

Twitter Search for Pepsi Cheer
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=pepsi+cheer

I’ll actually run a reputation report for this later in the week and add this to an overall case study, since this is such a blatantly bad idea.

Let’s have a quick look at why I’m saying this was not only a bad Marketing idea but it was a failure from a Social media perspective:

  1. Pepsi struck a chord with a national sport and national pride. Basically saying “You’re doing it wrong Canada”. Bad idea.
  2. Pepsi blatantly promoted themselves over simply promoting cheering for the team.
  3. Replacing the cheer was unnecessary. There are a number of cheer Pepsi could have latched onto and promoted. This likely would have gone over well.
  4. Their social media profiles simply ignored any backlash except for a few references to cheering “any cheer you want”. Too little too late.
  5. The Pepsi Canada Twitter stream did little to engage anyone talking on Twitter except for positive feedback and inane Re-Tweets about their promotion.
  6. The Pepsi Canada Twitter stream was hardly used but it was still there. Hey Pepsi Marketing Team - here’s a tip. Don’t use it if you’re going to use it badly.
  7. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=pepsi+cheer has far more negative sentiments than neutral or positive ones. Clearly Pepsi made a mistake here since they’re ignoring the fans they tried to approach. Oops that only serves to piss people off.
  8. The negative groups on Facebook almost outnumber the Fans of the Pepsi Cheer Fan Page. As a side note there is a decent set of sign up forms and calls to action on internal tabs of the fan page but there appears to be little focus to the fan page. They would have been better off to have participated in other Fan Pages (example: Hockey Canada) than to try to become the hub of Hockey Fans.
The Pepsi Cheer clearly annoying.

The Pepsi Cheer clearly annoying.

This is just the beginning of this fiasco for Pepsi in my humble opinion. They’ll be dealing with the backlash for quite sometime. Particularly since they appear to be staying the course on the same bad Social Media Strategy.

Another dumb move.

The key take aways here:

If you are going to do Social Media properly then do it properly and think about what you are doing, devote resources, a strategy and team to it.

If you think you need to have a presence on Social Networks just for the sake of being there, then you’re dead wrong.

If you are going to do a half assed job of Social Media Marketing then do yourself a favour and don’t do it at all.

Additional References

Junior Hockey Chant Falls Flat - Vancouver Sun

Traditional Cheers Given Vocal Support - Star Phoenix

Comments

  1. says

    Exactly. The biggest challenge companies can’t seem to understand is that their ideas will always be scrutinized. If they aren’t being real about it, it is a waste of their time. Less promotion and more connection, in my opinion. Develop true relationships and don’t market your base, don’t sell them. Just id what your brand personality is and work that. Anything else is just crazy making. Nice post!

  2. says

    Excellent analysis. However, I think you’re being too harsh. Social media is 5-10 years old (if even that). Hell Twitter wasn’t even that big 2 years ago. Mistakes are bound to be made. I think Pepsi made a huge error as well but I think they should be commended for taking a marketing risk (instead of say sticking to 30 second TV spots).

    • says

      @Matt I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a major brand to put some thought into a communications strategy as it relates to social media. If anything it shows how little thought was put into this beyond “yeah that seems cool!” – any user testing on a campaign like this would have revealed the error in their strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begrudging them for utilizing social media, I’m saying that their entire campaign and communication strategy was ill thought out at best. Just as a note, they ran multiple TV ad spots during prime time sporting events all over the country. Mistakes like this don’t need to happen if you’re a professional marketer and understand new media.

  3. says

    Calamity – guess they will not be using Toronto Agency Capital C again.

    Lesson to be learnt: choose your social media consultants carefully!

  4. says

    I am wondering is this is a case where any press is good press. And the fact you talked about it again just adds to that?

    Makes me feel like I should go crack a Pepsi.

    • says

      @Jim I don’t really subscribe to that notion in general although I have heard of people saying the very same thing. In this case I would venture to say that the public backlash was negative enough and directly pointed at Pepsi – will this negatively affect sales? Not likely. However will it negatively affect their brand image in the Canadian market? That’s pretty much shown to be the case. Oh yeah and enjoy your Pepsi :)

    • says

      @Jim Sorry forgot to reply to your second comment. I’m not trying to prevent chatter about the Pepsi campaign, from a certain perspective the kernel of the idea was not that horrible. The execution and messaging was extremely flawed, to Pepsi’s credit they tried to recover but at that point the backlash was in full swing. The fact that I talked about it only adds to the discussion which is a good thing. I’m not trying to prevent discussion, I’m much more interested in looking at the campaign and discussing it. So yeah. Mission accomplished.

  5. says

    This is also a great example of giving the marketing people too much power without supervision. Without proper management there can´t be real case studies. Focus must be kept within the company.

  6. says

    Interesting article, Dan. I wasn’t aware of this Pepsi Cheer until now, and the facebook and twitter stats really tell the story loud and clear.

    What’s interesting to me, is that with social media, you can actually measure a NEGATIVE impact… 64,000 people thought the Pepsi cheer was a “national embarrassment” – now that’s just comical!

    • says

      @Sean yeah it definitely works as a perfect case study for anyone engaging in Social Media. kNow to Pepsi’s credit I think they learned their lesson because their next foray into Social Media with their “Refresh Everything” non profit campaign seems to have worked out incredibly well.

      Just goes to show you that one mistake in Social Media can be an amazing learning experience and lay the ground work for highly effective activites that engage the consumer directly.

  7. says

    Classic example of traditional outbound marketing and advertising mindset….the art of social media is inbound marketing strategy and that is where Pepsi failed as this article eloquently illustrates.

  8. says

    The main person to blame here is Pepsi for hiring a company that has their site hosted at typepad.com. Here is a big tip for any business looking to hire a company to do their social media…first thing you should look for is if they actually have their own company connected to social media, and if so then how many followers and do they engage them. As far as I can tell this company does not have any social media at all.

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