Beverage brand Pepsi's fashion forays continue with a recent partnership with fashion label HUEMN to co-create a collection which was showcased by Bollywood actor Sara Ali Khan. The capsule collection will feature HUEMN’s trademark design and aesthetic while staying true to Pepsi’s iconography. In a conversation with Storyboard18, Saumya Rathor, category lead, Pepsi Cola, PepsiCo India talks about the partnership, marketing initiatives and why the brand is building its muscles in the Web 3.0, NFT and Metaverse space.
Why is Pepsi associating with a fashion brand? What value does this association add to the brand?
Pepsi, as a brand, is always standing for the youth of the country. We really believe in this whole attitude of the youth, which is all about having a lot of self-belief, having a lot of confidence and being very irreverent. I think the youth of India have different ways of expressing their attitude. Sometimes, they express that through music or the clothes they wear. Essentially it's a way of bringing that uniqueness to the forefront. And as a brand that celebrates the youth and celebrates that ability of the youth to express themselves, we felt that this was quite a seamless integration because fashion is a method of self-expression.
So, the collection is done by HUEMN, and we have a few pieces within that collection and it will have the Pepsi logo. It's essentially streetwear. Pepsi, as a brand, is all about really expressing. So, our collaboration is also in the lines that it should be easily accessible for the youth and easily wearable for the youth. And that's the reason why we've selected this particular label, because they live by those ethos.
How has Pepsi merchandising helped the brand?
There are very few brands that people like to wear, and Pepsi is one of them. We actually have constantly tied up with in the past with labels and brands. We have done a HUEMN collaboration in 2019. We have a website where consumers can actually pick up Pepsi merchandise including Pepsi Cola tee shirts and hoodies and sippers etc. We are constantly looking for avenues by which consumers could get a chance to really keep a piece of Pepsi with them.
One of our biggest ways of actually building the merchandise is also through the use of our brand ambassadors. All our Pepsi films actually have our ambassadors wear a Pepsi tee shirt. We use our celebrities to also talk about Pepsi's designs, so the people who are picking up our merchandise is actually very pervasive because the ambassadors that we have on brand, they cut across all kind of age demographics and city demographics.
Sara Ali Khan
What are the key marketing initiatives that really stood out in 2022?
We had a phenomenal year in terms of all the consumer campaigns that we've done. We kickstarted it with the Valentine Day’s campaign in which we are constantly on the side of the single people. So, we had these really cool cans (Swag se solo) that are the symbols of singlehood. And then I'm extremely grateful that we got an opportunity to create something that's never happened in Indian advertising. We created deep fake which had Salman from one of his movie characters called Prem actually mouthing dialogues from his film which was a first.
This is a year which I'll always remember as the year where we really double down on zero sugar, where we did a campaign which was all about building awareness about Pepsi Black. I think this whole year, of course, we had this huge thing that we've been communicating on Pepsi as well, which is all about the fact that now Pepsi has a lot of fizz. And we followed that up with anthem called “Check My Fizz” with rapper Badshah and Jacqueline Fernandes.
Any interesting consumer trends that you'd like to share with us?
Consumers are expecting a lot from marketers and I feel that they've been exposed to content so much. They have access to TV series and movies of all kinds of countries in the world. I feel that their expectation of storytelling is heightened right now and also their ability to really see whether the brand is picking up an insight. Because I feel that those two things, which is essentially the power of storytelling into a human truth, is what the brand is really talking about. Somewhere, at least advertising that I've been seeing on TV, needs to really sort of be in that direction because that's the consumer truth right now.
What are the areas that you're going to really focus on in 2023?
Creator economy is definitely something that's very intriguing and since 2019 Pepsi has always been tapping into that. We constantly leverage both mass celebrities as well as influencers to tell our message. But another thing that we've really done recently was the NFT launch, which was something that are really proud of. We launched 22 NFTs, which were the first 3D animation NFTs in India.
While we have dabbled in the creative economy aspect, earlier this year, for the first time, we made inroads in the Web 3.0 and Metaverse space with these 22 NFTs which was India's first 3D animation NFTs that we launched this year. While I feel that the space is very small and niche right now, but I think the next decade is going to explode when it comes to NFTs and we've been building our muscles and really doing purposeful learning to understand that space and experiment with that.