The Pepsi Challenge revived with a socially led, purpose-driven twist

While rival Coca-Cola is rolling out a massive global centenary celebration this year partly in a bid to save decreasing soda sales, Pepsi is also launching a multimillion yearlong marketing push—the new Pepsi Challenge.

The target audience of this initiative may probably not know that 40 years ago, in 1975, the company already held the namesake promotional initiative at malls, shopping centers and other public places across the U.S. Then shoppers were asked by Pepsi representatives to do a blind taste test between the two colas, Pepsi and Coke, and choose the one they preferred. Not surprisingly, the brand announced that Pepsi was preferred by more Americans as a result of the test.

Pic.: Pepsi Challenge illustration for the video commercial
Pic.: Pepsi Challenge illustration for the video commercial

Unlike the first installment, the 2015 Pepsi Challenge is not associated with the ‘cola war’, but centered around modern culture, digital communications and social purpose, and targets Millenials. The official campaign started in the U.S. on Wednesday, March 11th.

Photo: the Pepsi Challenge can
Photo: the Pepsi Challenge can

To encourage consumers to participate, Pepsi has tapped an impressive lineup of celebrities from sports, music, fashion and digital culture to lead and promote the respective global challenge. For example, the first challenge will be presented by Nicola Formichetti, a fashion designer, creative director and fashion editor widely known for collaborations with Diesel, Uniqlo and Lady Gaga. He will ask consumers to ‘bring light’ to poor communities, filling plastic Pepsi bottles with water and bleach so that they refract sunlight at night.

Another Pepsi Challenge ambassador Usher will be featured in a video footage from space; world-renowned athletes such as the tennis player Serena Williams, the soccer rising star James Rodríguez, and the «fastest man alive» Usain Bolt will present some sports-related challenges.

The sixth global ambassador is a social-media phenomenon, the most followed Snapchat user Jerome Jarre.

Despite the global spirit of the Pepsi Challenge campaign, there will be smaller regional culturally relevant events in some markets. For example, in India consumers will be asked by Pepsi to create their own advertisements that will be aired during the cricket championship games; Thailand will host a food-related Pepsi event; or Latin America will se a music contest related to La Gira Refrescante.

With the new Pepsi Challenge, the company also strives to emphasize its commitment to social causes and engage with socially conscious youth. Every time someone uses the hashtag #PepsiChallenge on social media, PepsiCo will donate $1 to the Liter of Light, a nonprofit that provides sustainable lighting to more than 18 developing countries in the deprived regions of the world.

Kristin Patrick, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo Global Beverage Brands, commented on the campaign:

«Pepsi Challenge is an iconic piece of our brand equity and in many ways established our can-do attitude and spirit. When we talked to consumers around the globe about what challenge meant to them today, they resoundingly said that it entailed challenging convention and daring to do something differently. We used that sentiment as our inspiration to expand beyond just taste and re-imagine the Pepsi Challenge for new generations, creating this cross-pollination of experiences, events, community and social advocacy, designed to ignite a mindset that challenges the status quo, our fans and ourselves.»