Why Pepsi is focusing on food in its largest Asia-wide campaign this year

The F&B giant’s brand marketers explain how their latest multi-phased campaign reinforces a global brand locally, attempts to help Covid-hit communities and reaches GenZ all at the same time.

Pepsi’s biggest campaign across Asia this year is now entering a new phase, expanding to many more markets and incorporating a new purpose-led element aimed at helping local food shops. 

When “This is a Pepsi Home” launched in Thailand in early July, it was characterised as a “food-porn” campaign by some observers, aimed at depicting people enjoying Pepsi in the middle of messy comfort food delights.  

Indeed, Steve Romasanta, PepsiCo’s senior director of marketing for beverages in Asia says the brand intentionally wanted to put “a Pepsi spin” on what are traditionally very staged family meal scenes in advertising. “Consumers, especially Gen Z are looking for authenticity,” he says, and “we are our most authentic selves when we’re at home.”  

“The tonality here is different to portray a more authentic way that people share foods together [like they do] on Instagram and TikTok, where everything is a bit messy or untidy, but is more fun and relatable,” adds Lilly Yip, PepsiCo’s APAC CMO. 

While our ad critic, Ad Nut, begged to differ on how authentically the Vayner Media-produced  creative came across, it is instructive to understand the insight behind it, along with the strategy and execution as it rolls out in several phases.  

The insight

The insight behind Pepsi’s recent food fetish has its roots in what happened across Asia during Covid, with different markets going through varying degrees of lockdown and consumers spending more time at home. Romasanta points to rising delivery rates for favourite foods and notes how mealtimes took on a greater social function, so that even as measures eased, having fun with others often meant going to local eateries or inviting others to share food at home.

"As a food and beverage company, this is really the most important occasion for us," Yip tells Campaign. "In the past, meals were seen as mundane and boring while Pepsi was all about music and fun. But now as a brand, while we still have very youth-focused campaigns centered around music, we also need to connect to consumers in the relevant ways they live their lives. For people and friends, meals are such important social and emotional moments."

With that shift in perspective, Pepsi's strategy, planning and phased execution of this campaign sought to address several of the brand's key challenges in Asia alongside its purpose-led ambitions.

Global and local consistency

Yip and Romasanta face an all-too-familiar challenge for APAC marketers. “As a brand we want to appear as one powerful global brand,” explains Yip, whose geographic remit is broken down into three parts: Greater China, ANZ and North & Southeast Asia.  But the vast diversity across the broader Asian sub-region where Romasanta runs beverage marketing, means any campaign, especially a food-based campaign, has to culturally adapt in-market with differing language, product, tone and weight that can easily derail brand consistency. 

As a result, the campaign -- which kicked-off in Thailand in early July, was recently launched in Vietnam and Malaysia, is set to enter Philippines and Laos in Q3 and will hit Myanmar in Q4 – features a variety of Asian foods enjoyed everywhere in a series of congruent hero films and short videos that are translated and adapted only slightly to each market (see Malaysian and Thai video adaptations above). There is also coherence across other touchpoints including food-themed packaging, OOH and point-of-sale marketing elements.  

“With all these I think this new program is aiming to bring consistency in our brand communication,” Yip says. 

At the same time, the campaign provides for local adaptation and interaction through sampling activations, social media activities and even more so through the second CSR-based phase of the campaign aimed at helping local eateries 

#HomeAwayFromHome

Pepsi’s brand new “Home Away Home” campaign gets even more local, attempting to reinforce consumers’ emotional food attachments to a purpose-led brand building campaign that supports local Asian eateries affected by the pandemic. 

The support is not financial. Instead, it aims to create awareness through its platforms of the many local restaurants and food stalls in need of more customers.  

Across Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, Pepsi will be partnering with around 50 influencers and bloggers to post about local eateries while asking fans to upload pictures of their visits to earn rewards. Fans will be asked to post their own favourite local food  on social platforms and challenge friends to do the same.  Along with special TikTok challenges for discount vouchers and Facebook videos, the campaign will be amplified by Pepsi through its owned social media, senior leadership involvement and press conferences.  

 “We want to help these home away from homes get noticed,” Romasanta says, “especially for people who may have forgotten them and people who have moved on, you know over the last two years. They haven't been to their favorite stalls, so maybe it's a good time to remind them.”  

“Food to many people is very emotional and personal, like familiar street food or food we eat every day after school,” Yip says. “It’s also part of the emotional element that brings our brand closer to them."  


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