A branded reality show, a virtual restaurant and soda experiments ranging from nitro-infused cola to Peeps collaborations are just a few of the creative swings Pepsi has taken in recent years to establish what it bills as a “disruptor” reputation. As a focus on boldness continues, Pepsi executives are shaking up a visual identity they view as too sedate to match the liveliness the beverage giant wants to bring to the table.
“We're doing all these things that are not shy, they're not recessive,” said Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, in a recent interview. “The logo and visual system just felt inconsistent with how our brand has been behaving.”
Pepsi today unveiled an overhaul of its logo and touchpoints spanning digital and physical channels, including packaging, fountain and cooler equipment, trucking fleets, dining and fashion. Years in the works, the makeover was developed internally at Pepsi, with feedback along the way from various agency partners. The new look will be implemented across brand touchpoints, starting in North America this fall for the brand’s 125th anniversary.
“It's really been a progress, a journey,” said Mauro Porcini, chief design officer at PepsiCo, on the call with Kaplan. “This is the landing of that journey, and the beginning anew.”
Goodbye to minimalism
With this new chapter, Pepsi is enacting a hard pivot away from the type of minimalist branding that’s overtaken marketing over the past decade-plus. The soda’s muted blue color scheme has been swapped for a loud electric shade, complemented by sharper black tones to create contrast. The update also puts Pepsi Zero Sugar, which already uses the color black on its packaging, front-and-center in the marketer’s portfolio as the better-for-you option becomes a more substantial growth driver, according to Kaplan.
“It really is the first time we can truly embrace this concept of a master brand approach,” said Kaplan.
Another alteration consumers may soon notice is that the word “Pepsi” has been shifted up to appear inside the soda’s globe-shaped logo, an attempt to bring more cohesion and flexibility to the design while harkening back to past iterations of the iconography. The revamped “wordmark” is written in a bolder custom typeface, differing from the current version’s soft, lower-cased letters. Along with rejiggering existing assets, Pepsi is introducing a “pulse” motif to communicate a sense of energy and movement and pay homage to the music-oriented efforts that have resulted in some of its most memorable marketing.
Collectively, these changes are united by the brand’s guiding mission of “unapologetic enjoyment,” or the joy people feel from cutting loose and indulging, per executives. The revisions are also tailored to recognize the demands of an increasingly digital and “phygital” era, where fewer aspects of marketing are static while jumping between tactical and plugged-in experiences is in vogue. A press release announcing the news nods to Pepsi’s interest in emergent channels like Web3 and the metaverse, as well as a desire to connect “younger generations” to the company’s heritage.
“We need to make sure we're not just a JPEG in the corner that people cut and paste,” said Kaplan. “We need to be embracing these new mediums.”
Years in the making
The timing of the makeover aligns with Pepsi’s 125th anniversary in the fall. That’s when a consumer-facing push promoting the shakeup will kick into high gear in North America before expanding globally in early 2024. Pepsi declined to share details of what the marketing will look like, while noting it will be a “big moment” for the brand. PepsiCo has performed well lately despite a volatile economy, beating analyst expectations on earnings in revenue in the fourth quarter, though it’s also enacted price hikes due to inflation.
The new visual update marks the largest gap in time for Pepsi between making such alterations. The last major update was 14 years ago, just a few years after the iPhone’s debut and well before the ascendance of apps like Netflix and TikTok led Pepsi to rethink its media playbook. Pepsi last year stepped away as Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsor after a decade amid a prioritization of digital, though it preserves a relationship with the NFL. Looking forward, staying agile with fast-shifting consumer behaviors remains the top mandate.
“We're now on the verge, in the next 10 to 15 years, of an explosion of where we will go as you think about Web3 and the metaverse, as you think about digital overall,” said Kaplan.
In that way, one force behind Pepsi’s current makeover could be read as a desire to cater to younger cohorts like Gen Z that has already led the soft drink marketer to invest more in apps like TikTok and content creators. But Kaplan noted that Pepsi is a mass consumer brand, with key offerings like Pepsi Zero Sugar frequently targeted at the older crowd. Pepsi Zero Sugar became the centerpiece of the brand’s professional football marketing last season and ran a Super Bowl campaign around a reformulation.
“What's great about this new system, for an older consumer it feels like a modernized version of something that's familiar. For a younger consumer, it feels bold and on-trend,” said Kaplan.
“There are not a lot of 125-year-old brands that can continue to feel currently relevant to the time that they're operating in,” Kaplan added. “A lot of brands and legacy brands, as they're called, get stale over time.”