- Pepsi is opening a music-focused, experiential space within Hersheypark, an amusement park in Pennsylvania, per a press release. Pepsi Pop Star opens today (July 30) and was created with design agency Jam3.
- The 2,500-square-foot space features dance pods where fans can record short music videos that will be matched to personalized virtual avatars. The space has an apparel store and Pepsi cooler stocked with products, and is free to guests but requires a reservation.
- The experiential Pepsi Pop Star links several pre-pandemic marketing strategies while expanding the soda brand's ties to popular music. It's also the latest effort by parent company PepsiCo to experiment with nontraditional marketing activations.
Pepsi's latest campaign builds on its musical heritage and combines several pre-pandemic tactics to drive fan engagement at a popular amusement park. Since 2013, the soda brand has been the official sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and has partnered with a range of popular musicians through additional campaigns. This latest effort sees Pepsi hoping to further establish its musical connection among consumers.
In a revival of experiential marketing, Pepsi is offering dance pods in which fans can record their performances of professional routines matched to hit songs by artists including Kane Brown, The Killers and Imagine Dragons. The routines will be performed on a screen by virtual avatars that fans can personalize via selfie and then model their moves after. As people return to many pre-pandemic activities, other brands are reemploying their own experiential efforts, such as Corona's voice-activated vending machine and Wendy's "Rick and Morty"-themed diner.
A contest element ascribes scores to the performances and will allow the fan with the highest score to take home their 15-second music video. Winners are encouraged to share their performances on social channels with hashtags like #PepsiPopStar and #HersheyparkHappy, which could extend the campaign's reach.
The offering of branded merchandise is another pre-pandemic strategy at play, which has also been tapped recently by brands like Pizza Hut and McDonald's. Pepsi's apparel store is designed to emulate a concert experience and marks the first time the soda brand has released licensed gear with a partner, per the release.
While Pepsi's campaign revives experiential elements that have been mostly out of commission since the pandemic's onset, the activations look different than they used to, indicating the possible ways in which the channel may change going forward. Dance rooms, for example, are a contactless experience and segmented into private pods to limit interaction between separate groups. The pods also use personalized avatar tech, which grew in popularity during the pandemic and could continue to be used by marketers given how videoconferencing is expected to stick around.
Pepsi is betting on a resurgence in amusement park attendance to fuel its campaign. Before the pandemic, Hersheypark was one of the most heavily-attended amusement parks in the U.S., having seen just under 3.4 million visitors in 2019. Pepsi could potentially tap into this pool with its immersive experience. But despite a rise in vaccination rates and renewed interest in theme parks, the mounting threat of the COVID-19 delta variant could thwart engagement.
With Pepsi Pop Star, parent company PepsiCo is expanding its experimental efforts to keep pace with societal trends. When marketing was still mostly virtual, the company launched a virtual restaurant for food and beverage delivery. The food and beverage behemoth also has a venture arm, PepsiCo Labs, dedicated to finding startups that help inform its non-traditional advertising.