I was inspired to write this post having read Mashable’s
article on Pepsi executing social media marketing the right way. The article was timely as it corresponded with my reading of Anthony Seldon’s
book ‘Trust’. I started thinking, maybe a little too deeply; how businesses such as Pepsi are leading the way to increase the trust relationship between customers and businesses.
In summary, as stated within Contagious: Pepsi’s Refresh Everything
campaign has seen Pepsi pull its entire Superbowl budget - an amazing US$20 million - in favour of the CSR initiative. This move will mark an end to their 23 year investment in the game. Refresh Everything launchedon January 13th 2010 to reward those with big ideas for improving communities across the areas of health, arts and culture, charity, ecology, neighbourhood and education. From tomorrow, February 1st, the public will be able to cast their vote to decide the most worthy causes. Grants will then be awarded up to the total value of $1.3m per month over the course of the year.
The crowdsourcing activity Pepsi is undertaking is definitely not new, as local governments have already carried out similar initiatives to identify the most popular projects citizens would like to see activated. Pepsi’s campaign just been extended to the digital realm as part of a campaign to tap into larger communities using social media tools and techniques. Geoff Northcott
in his post identifies similar crowdsourcing cause marketing initiatives.
So what has this got to do with trust? In short everything. What Pepsi has done/doing, is to move away from the broadcast era of super bowl adverts into one of increased relationship building based on trust. The campaign name ‘Refresh Everything’ signifies Pepsi’s transition from broadcast to networks. In a time where America has completely lost trust in businesses, as illustrated in Edelman’s 2009 Trust Baromoter
; building relationships based on trust makes economic sense. According to Edelman’s mid year trust barometer report 2009, 77% of US consumers reported in 2009 that they had refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted service.
Pepsi’s CSR initiative shows, that as an organisation they are taking the welfare of others seriously. Yes, we can be cynical that the brand is using the campaign as a way of increasing sales and generating awareness of the product, but such cynicism is exactly why trust is destroyed in the first place. We trust that Pepsi’s motives are for the greater good rather than short-term profit and career gain for those within the marketing department. I for one applaud the initiative. The amount of advertising and sponsorship money that has been blown on ways for CEO’s with an interest in American Football for example just to get closer to their idols for their own benefit is self-indulgence at its ugliest, rather than for the benefit of stakeholders, the industry and society as a whole, not to mention future generations.
In order to build and maintain trust over time, Pepsi need to ensure that it is not just the marketing and PR departments, but the entire organisation whom embrace the initiative in order for the campaign to be regarded as truly ethical. This is where social business design comes into play whereby the campaign communication can transcend to all business units such as HR, customer services, manufacturing and supply chains.
Through the increased use of social media tools and technologies as part of social business design, I can see that initiatives such as Pepsi’s will become an example of how trust-organisations can flourish. In turn, this will not only help build trust, reinvigorate our positive attitude towards businesses, but bring back purpose and legitimacy for brands.