CAMPAIGNS: PRODUCT REBRANDING; Blue is the cola, PR is the game

Client: PepsiCo Agency: Freud Communications Campaign: ‘Project Blue’ Timing: September 1995 - April 1996 Budget: pounds 200m for worldwide rebranding.

Client: PepsiCo

Agency: Freud Communications

Campaign: ‘Project Blue’

Timing: September 1995 - April 1996

Budget: pounds 200m for worldwide rebranding.

Last year Pepsi sold around a third of Europe’s cola drinks but is still

behind its rival Coca Cola and now faces competition from the likes of

Virgin Cola. Pepsi’s UK market share currently stands at 21.3 per cent

against Coca-Cola’s 32.7 per cent.

To reinforce its youthful image, Pepsi’s marketing group came up with a

plan to replace its 12-year-old ‘New Generation’ logo with the

iconoclastic strapline ‘Change the Script’ while extending the blue

livery of its sugar-free Pepsi Max brand across the range.

The campaign surrounding the repackaging is being hailed as one of the

most expensive PR stunts ever.


To turn a re-branding and re-packaging exercise into a total brand



Before the British public had an inkling of the excesses to come, blue

tomato ketchup bottles, strawberries and post-boxes sprung up on poster

sites throughout the country courtesy of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

The teaser campaign was closely followed by the star-studded TV

campaign, reputed to have cost pounds 2 million, which featured strongly

in the PR-led campaign run by Freud Communications.

The relaunch kicked off with a media event at Gatwick airport on 2 April

with an estimated cost of pounds 8 million.

Four hundred and sixty reporters from 45 countries gathered in a blue

velvet-lined 55,000 sq ft hanger to view an Air France Concorde decked

out in blue livery, while senior Pepsi executives announced the

rebranding, screened the new ads and revealed a deal with youth music

channel MTV in Europe and Latin America.

In line with its tried and tested celebrity strategy, Andre Agassi,

Cindy Crawford ‘the First Lady of Pepsi’ and Claudia Schiffer, stars of

the new TV advertisements were rolled out to confirm that Pepsi had

teen-friendly status. In the run up to the event, the Daily Mirror ran a

series of teaser editorials before going the whole hog on the day and

donning a mauve masthead and blue newsprint in a deal believed to have

cost around pounds 2 million.

A plan to dye Rangers Football Club’s pitch blue for an estimated pounds

100,000 was abandoned when it was realised the stunt was likely to

alienate Celtic fans.


UK media coverage included 74 mins 30 seconds of radio and one and a

half hours of television as well as almost comprehensive press coverage.

Freud put the value of coverage at pounds 1.8 million minus the Mirror

deal, which it values at pounds 1 million.

Judicious leaking of information resulted in previews of the can design,

the ad campaigns and rumours about the painting of Concorde on News at

Ten on 1 April.

International results have yet to be evaluated, but Pepsico claim

saturation coverage with particularly strong results in Eastern Europe.

By 9 April, Pepsi research recorded a 76 per cent awareness of the

colour change, although a Neilsen report leaked to the Sun last week

claimed that Pepsi sales have fallen since the launch.


A wide-ranging campaign which succeeded, not only in pulling in media

from around the globe, but also managed to cloak the fact that a change

of packaging for a soft drink isn’t much to write home about.

A triumph of perception over reality. But will it sell more fizz?

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