Dear Pepsi (Japan)

Dear Pepsi (Japan),

Thank you for your admirable run of bonkers line extensions and for showing us how innovation can be used to generate consumer interest and (euk!) “brand-buzz”. Thanks for demonstrating that just because a piece of innovation isn’t a huge seller, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a role and that it’s still worth doing…for the so-called “masterbrand halo effect” rather than the direct sales increase.

The latest innovation – Pepsi Mont Blanc – at least looks like a cola:

Now this is the type of innovation that would (nearly) keep a bunch of brand theory purists happy – it stretches the brand without taking the brand to its “breaking-point”, and it’s based on the core product (i.e. a brown, fizzy, sugary cola drink). Albeit with the addition of actual snow from Mont Blanc, which might get a few people mumbling about credibility, heritage, tramlines and other such limiting apprehensions.

This is more than can be said for the pretty off the wall ideas that you’ve been launching since 2007, which go way, way beyond a purists’ breaking-point:

Amazing stuff, but way too niche in terms of size of opportunity and mass market flavour appeal, grumbles our team of brand purists (and probably qual and quant researchers who no doubt will have been involved).

But that’s not the point! These have all been limited edition innovations. They’re not designed to be drunk in themselves (but great if they are), they’re not designed to open up new sub-categories and deliver massive volume uplifts…they are designed to get more Japanese consumers to buy regular bottles of Pepsi, more often, by associating the brand with a funky whackiness that so appeals to the Japanese youth. It’s all about the influencing their perception of the brand and not about the volume the products deliver. That’s what I reckon at least!

So thanks Pepsi Japan for showing us how you can use innovation in different ways. The “masterbrand halo effect” is impossibly difficult to measure, so I admire you for sticking to what you believe in, using your distribution power and making some noise.

You’re not the only one at it – Absolut, who I thanked here, are big fans of the limited edition and Unilever have been doing similar, if slightly less radical things with their Axe/Lynx and Magnum brands over recent years…but I’ll leave them to another post.




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