CMO Q&A: Jill Beraud, PepsiCo Americas Beverages

PepsiCo Americas Beverages' Jill Beraud speaks with Aarti Shah about the Refresh Project and getting past social media mishaps.

PepsiCo Americas Beverages' Jill Beraud speaks with Aarti Shah about the Refresh Project and getting past social media mishaps.

PRWeek: What message is PepsiCo trying to send by bypassing Super Bowl ads in favor of the Refresh Project?

Jill Beraud: This was really inspired by our vision for PepsiCo. [Our CEO] Indra Nooyi has established this “performance with purpose” culture that says as a corporation you can do well and do good at the same time. We all know that consumers today really care about what brands stand for. The Refresh Project combines the need to really define what PepsiCo stands for and to connect and drive engagement with our consumer. By not doing the Super Bowl, it enabled us to go so much broader to other multimedia venues and I think we have to be very conscious of where we are spending money. A lot of brands go out and give away millions of dollars and spend even more telling people about it. We don't want to do that. This isn't just a promotion; it's an ongoing effort.  

PRWeek: The Refresh Project has a lot of celebrity involvement. Do you think the impact of celebrities has waned in this age where just about anyone can become a minor one?

Beraud: Celebrities have always been a part of Pepsi's DNA, so we were thrilled that celebrities reached out to us as soon as they heard about it. For example, Ellen Pompeo from Grey's Anatomy called us and told us she wanted to submit an idea. Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon [competed for] a grant. So celebrities are a big part of this, but this is really about the democratization of ideas. I still think people are very interested in celebrities, but, yes, anybody can be a celebrity. And in a sense, this initiative helps enable that because the people winning the Pepsi grants will become celebrities. We'll be celebrating their ideas on the Today show, online – they will get press onto themselves and become mini-celebrities.

PRWeek: PepsiCo got into trouble last year with its “Score” iPhone application for the Amp energy drink. Do you think that did long-term damage to the brand?

Beraud: Social media is absolutely critical to brands today. It's not about talking to your consumers; it's about having conversations. And that means, listening and not being afraid of listening to what they have to say. We are a company and a brand that takes risks and not everyone will appreciate those risks. And we're not afraid to hear what consumers have to say about those risks. It's important to take risks and you're never going to please everybody and that's OK. But we'll always listen. I don't think it had a long-term impact and it actually appealed to a lot of people.    

PRWeek: Why do you consider Pepsi to be a catalyst for cultural change?

Beraud: Over the years Pepsi has always talked about the new generation and we've always had the spirit of the new generation. I've been calling the Refresh Project, the “new Pepsi challenge for the digital generation.”

PRWeek: Do you think this generation is even more driven toward public service and activism?

Beraud: There's no question. What's interesting, people think it's just among Millennials. But this cuts across all cohorts. Prior to launching Project Refresh on a mass level, we reached out to influencers and we already received ideas across all age groups.   

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