June 15, 2010

Pepsi Proves You Can Give Away Money

I know I'm like totally old school and out of it and a big old dinosaur, but I thought marketing was supposed to be about selling stuff. Silly me.

So wasn't I all red-in-the-face and feeling like a dork when I read an interview in BrandWeek with Pepsi's marketing director. The interview was about their much ballyhooed "Refresh Project" -- which, in my churlish opinion is a big cynical gimmick to get some marketing leverage by giving away 20 million dollars to people with nice ideas.

Now, before you go calling me an ogre, I am all in favor of giving money to help people and communities. I even do a fair bit of it myself.

The difference between Pepsi and me, however, is that I don't go around beating my chest about it. I  do it because I think it's the right thing to do.

Maybe I just don't like the idea of big, fat corporations gloating over their munificence, and executives from these corporations parading their smugness. Call me cynical, but to me altruism loses its luster when it seeks bouquets.

Pepsi is brazenly using their "Refresh" project for the purpose of buying their way into social media stardom and "creating buzz on social networks." Double yuk.

But I digress...

The thing that interested me most about the interview was that it focused on the marketing effectiveness of the campaign without once mentioning the word "sales."
"The success has been overwhelming. We have more than doubled our Facebook fans since we started the campaign. We have more than 24,000 Twitter fans"
Hmm. Let's see. So far Pepsi has given away 5 mil (not counting the millions they've spent on promoting this thing) divided by 24,000 comes to about $208 a fan. So their Twitter fans are costing them about $208 a pop. At that rate, I could sell them my 3,000 Twitter followers and make a nice cool $600k on the deal. By the way, my Twitter followers cost me less than $208 each. They cost me nothing on a stick.

Now here's the thing. If you're going to give away 20 million dollars to help people and communities, then god bless you. But please, don't rub my nose in it.

On the other hand, if you're doing it to promote sales, then don't pretend you're Mother Teresa.

And if you're just doing it to attract Facebook friends and Twitter followers, then you're seriously demented.

This is probably the most expensive social media effort ever. I'm very curious to know what effect it will have on sales.

So far all it's proven to me is that if you want to give away money, you can.

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