The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 8, 2008

The Choke of a New Generation?

Filed under: Advertising, Design — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:59 am

In case it hasn’t reached you yet, it appears that in an effort to throw a brand identity with a long and rich history down the proverbial toilet and somehow try to gain back some lost market share in the process, Pepsi has unveiled a major brand overhaul of their core products, which should be making its way to your local supermarket soon, if it hasn’t made it there already.  The old familiar Pepsi logo that has existed in one form or another since 1950 seems to have been abandoned for some sort of vaguely recognizable facsimile that looks like the result of the old logo getting extremely drunk and engaging in illicit relations with the logo of some obscure Asian airline, and the lettering on the cans and bottles has been replaced with a font that seems more at home on a $6 bottle of vaguely exotic fruit flavored designer fitness water than it does on the packaging of the second largest cola brand in the world.  All this in an effort to compete with a brand that seems to be doing just fine with a logo that has hardly changed at all since Grover Cleveland was President of the United States (not to say that Coca-Cola hasn’t also had their share of blunders along the way…)

To be honest, for the past couple of years I’ve been pretty much sitting out the cola wars entirely, since I have stopped drinking caffeinated beverages of all types.  Back when I did still drink the stuff, I generally opted for Coke over Pepsi, and I suspect I’d probably be one of the ones to flunk out on the Pepsi challenge if such things were still happening though.  I suspect that there’s probably a lot less difference between the two products than we might suspect, and for most people it doesn’r really matter which they drink as long as they manage to get their daily dose of caffeine and sugar water.  Most of the people out there who happen to drink Pepsi mostly because it isn’t Coke will probably continue to do so, regardless of what sort of half-baked new age design they stick on the can (assuming they can still actually recognize it after the mangling that the logo has received.)  I can certainly understand the need to tinker with things every once in a while to keep the design fresh (for example, Pepsi’s simplistic 1980s and early 1990s can designs  worked quite well for their times, but both of these would look incredibly dated sitting on a modern store shelf.  The more recent can design that was just replaced by this new logo is obviously a bit flashier than the older red and white can designs, but by now it’s familiar enough that it tends to fade into the background.  The new can seems to be going back toward the more simplified look (which, to some extent, seems to mirror a similar move by Coca-Cola to revert back a a simpler design after spending a number of years cluttering up their cans with various background noise) and sticks with solid colors on a basic blue background. 

The problem with this is that if they’re trying to use this redesign to attract more attention to their product, making the packaging look more generic on a shelf already filled with hundreds of different varieties of Pepsi, Coke and store brand products as well as a number of small but growing upstart competitors is not the right approach to be taking here.  Pepsi seems to be betting on the radical redesign of the logo (and presumably whatever major ad campaign they’re throwing at it) to attract attention, and for better or for worse it seems to be doing so on the Internet.  The problem is that the vast majority of soda drinkers out there (you know, the ones who actually DRINK the product rather than debate endlessly about it on the Internet and never actually touch a can of the stuff) are probably not going to start drinking more Pepsi because it comes in new packaging.  For that matter, the people who complain about redesigns like this (I wonder where you might find those?) probably aren’t going to change their soda drinking habits one way or another as a result of this either, so in the end the whole thing becomes something of a zero-sum game.  I suspect that the  declines in Pepsi’s sales which prompted this change are probably more the result of changing habits and overall reductions in the amount of people drinking soda in the first place than they are about any sort of image problem that might have been helped (or exacerbated) by this redesign.  Nonetheless, it’s probably not such a good idea to be giving people reasons NOT to drink your product, and I have to wonder if they might be doing just that with this new design.

(For some more comments on this new design and a few old Pepsi commercials from YouTube, be sure to check out today’s Bleat as well.)

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