This week’s gigantic launch of the new Pepsi colours reportedly involves
some of the most expensive publicity ever. It certainly involves some of
the most innovative PR tactics - such as turning the Mirror blue and
repainting Concorde. Freud Communications, an expert at this kind of
spectacular, has excelled itself on behalf of its blue chip client.
But why all the fuss about a change of packaging? The product otherwise
remains the same, Pepsi wisely avoiding the ‘new formula’ trap which
once blighted Coke.
The PR textbooks tell us that the best strategy is to match reality to
perception and vice versa. If the perception of your product exceeds
reality, people will lose faith in your message. If the reality is
better than the image, someone isn’t doing their job properly. But what
happens when the reality is, dare one say it, as dull as sugared water?
In anyone’s book, spending dollars 500 million on changing the colour of
your packaging (pounds 6 million just on the launch) is a lot of money.
But when your product is both essentially unchanging - perhaps
unchangeable - and pitted against a global rival in an all-out war of
attrition, you constantly need new angles with which to woo the cola
There is of course a danger that consumers may not be impressed by the
colour of the emperor’s new clothes. The skill of PR operators like
Freud therefore lies in persuading us all that it really does matter. On
this week’s frenzied evidence, they may succeed. But in the end, sales
figures alone will determine whether this round will go to the blue
corner or the red corner.