Limited-edition products help garner quick impact, demand

In early June, PepsiCo rolled out its Ice Cucumber soda in Japan, and curious consumers bought all 4.8 million bottles of the beverage.

In early June, PepsiCo rolled out its Ice Cucumber soda in Japan, and curious consumers bought all 4.8 million bottles of the beverage.

The sold-out supply may have been caused by Ice Cucumber soda's debut on YouTube and several blogs, with a debate about the drink tasting more like melon than cucumber.

But instead of restocking the suddenly popular drink, Pepsi brand managers in Japan decided to discontinue production because of seasonal change. BusinessWeek reports that with Ice Cucumber, Pepsi and Suntory, the Tokyo beverage maker that markets the soda giant's products in Japan, were intentionally creating a "short-lived fad." The companies invested more than two years in developing the soda, which would offer cool respite in the midst of the hot summer months.

Keiko Ishihara, who oversees PepsiCo sales for Suntory, told BusinessWeek, "The value of Ice Cucumber is that it's gone already."

Why does it matter?

"When you use a limited-edition or limited-time offer, it's a great way to engage something that is new, innovative, and may not fit into your core offerings," says Shannelle Armstrong, manager of US communications for McDonald's. It's a great opportunity for PR pros to take advantage of seasonal time periods, nuances within pop culture, and larger movie promotions, she notes.

Limited-edition products can be promoted through consumer engagement events and media relations, which gives the company or brand an opportunity to engage with the media around why the product is good for the consumer.

Consumers are more willing to buy limited-edition products because it gives them the mentality that "I'm part of that limited amount of people who are able to tap into that" and "get it while it's hot," Armstrong explains. "It's always about who has the newest, coolest, what's most relevant now." If there are limited quantities, consumers feel like they're in the know.

Five facts:

1 Although Pepsi's Ice Cucumber soda is no longer in stock, consumers can still bid on the drink through many listings on eBay

2 In 2004, PepsiCo rolled out Pepsi Blue, which had a two-year run in the US. Soon afterward, Pepsi Red made its way onto the shelves

3 Nestle has also carried limited-edition Kit Kat bars in Japan, such as Cantaloupe Melon and Koshian Maccha (green tea with red-bean filling)

4 McDonald's carries limited-edition/limited-time-offer products through its Happy Meals, of which the recent Shrek glasses were sold out

5 Last October, Apple released an iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, created by U2's Bono, which coexisted with the (RED) campaign


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