Written by Noemi Pollack on July 26, 2010.
In my blog of February 10, I was both intrigued and skeptical about the“ Pepsi Refresh” initiative. Intrigued, because it represented everything that an ideal interactive campaign can be – “creative, innovative, highly engaging and very popular, while building on the brand in a fun and social way.” Skeptical, because Pepsi was to grant large sums of money ($5,000 to $250,000) to charities (within selected categories) based on a populous vote of “friends and peers.” Critical thought as to urgency or evaluation of need, did not come into play.
Still, my skepticism faded rather rapidly as Pepsi came up with another angle within its campaign — its “Do Good for the Gulf” Refresh campaign, which has awarded 32 grants each month worth $1.3 million. Now Pepsi has invited consumers to submit ideas that could “refresh the communities of the Gulf states,” through July 16 and has pledged another $1.3 million. Starting August 2, consumers can vote on the ideas they like best. Finalists will be announced on September 2, and grants will be awarded on September 22.
For big brands to spend money on major causes is not new. Nor is it new for big brands or companies to get behind a disaster and offer funds and equipment as needed. If it is also somewhat self-serving, and is based on an ulterior marketing motive, so be it. Still, marketers would do well to note how well the Pepsi’s Refresh campaign worked in that it has empowered the consumer and rallied the public-at-large to come up with ideas in support of a disaster, in this case, the Gulf Oil disaster.
It’s a fine line to cross, however, and can be seen as opportunistic.
In this case, Pepsi has gained recognition for outstanding corporate social responsibility (CSR). It has earned it in a substantive way, for the Refresh Project has given more than $7 million in the first five months of the year and expects to invest at least $20 million in worthy causes.
And it has raised a populous conscientiousness as to charities. How does that get rewarded?