Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pepsi Imperfect

Pepsi has officially proven itself to have the most incompetent marketing department on the face of the planet. Twice.

You may recall my earlier post last month about Pepsi’s much touted marketing campaign to release a special edition bottle of Pepsi Perfect – the fictional soft drink in the film Back to the Future IIPepsi completely botched the rollout due to a number of blunders, all detailed in my previous post. Fortunately for Pepsi, I offered it a way to climb out of this marketing debacle. I advised: “If Pepsi wants to attempt to recover from this disaster, it should immediately announce it will release an unlimited supply of Pepsi Perfect in time for the Christmas holiday season, offered in stores, at the same price as similarly sized Pepsi products.”

The incompetents at the Pepsi marketing department must have read my post. More likely, they merely skimmed it. That would explain how they were able to ignore its most pertinent elements and repeat their epic failure – twice. Pepsi did announce it would release more Pepsi Perfect… But, only 6,500 more bottles would be available today (November 3, 2015) precisely at 9 am; but only available for pre-order now for delivery after Christmas (forget about buying them as Christmas gifts); but only available online; but priced at $20.15 each. What part of my simple one-sentence solution to your marketing fiasco did you not understand, Pepsi?

At 9 am, the Pepsi Website continued to have the same “Coming Soon” announcement for the Pepsi Perfect release it had shown hours before. As it did at 9:01 am. After being rightly criticized for having launched the product two hours before its announced launch date the first time, Pepsi was now late, missing its own deadline. At 9:02 am it was still “coming soon”. And at 9:03 am. And then the Pepsi Website crashed. Apparently the server was not able to handle the hits from the 6,500 people visiting the site of one of the world’s largest corporations. Or, more likely, judging from the outcry over the first Pepsi Imperfect marketing fiasco, there were actually hundreds of thousands of Pepsi customers visiting that site to purchase their collectible. This was about as foreseeable as the sun rising in the morning… To everyone but the Pepsi marketing crew. This is precisely why I advised Pepsi to release an unlimited supply of Pepsi Perfect to meet the anticipated demand for the product. Meeting demand is the corollary of creating product demand – that’s Marketing 101. What part of unlimited don’t you understand, Pepsi?

At 9:04 am, Pepsi’s Twitter feed acknowledged its site had crashed. While Pepsi customers were reloading their browsers in vain, hoping to access its Website, the Twitter feed directed customers to an Amazon.com link where they might purchase one of the 6,500 Pepsi Perfect bottles. On that Amazon page, customers were presented with another link allowing them to “pre-order” the bottle for shipping on December 26 – the day after Christmas. Why Pepsi would choose not to release an unlimited quantity and specifically market them as Christmas gifts is completely unfathomable and will make a fascinating essay question for future business students. Meanwhile, those eager Pepsi customers who clicked the link at 9:05 am landed on another Amazon page informing them: “We're sorry. The item Pepsi Perfect Cola, 16.9 Ounce - Limited Collector's Edition is no longer available.”

Remember in the Peanuts comic strip when Lucy used to pull the football out from underneath Charlie Brown just as he was about to kick it? Every year, Lucy would promise not to yank the football away at the last minute, and every year, Charlie Brown charged at the football and ended up on his ass. It’s only funny in the comic strip, Pepsi; it’s not funny when you treat your customers like Charlie Brown.

You may wonder why I have spent two columns discussing Pepsi’s marketing ineptitude. That’s because I’m not just a writer; I’m also a graduate of the 15th top-ranked MBA program in the nation. I wouldn’t have graduated if I had executed Pepsi’s marketing fiasco as a school project. They’d have flunked me for such incompetence and ineptitude. It irks me that some of my peers are currently unable to find work, yet Fortune 500 companies like Pepsi appear to have an outreach program for the incompetent.

As for Pepsi’s customer base? The Pepsi Perfect Amazon product page racked up 1,203 reviews in the first hour: 83 percent gave Pepsi one star, the lowest rating they could.
[Full Disclosure: Emory University’s MBA program was ranked #15 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report (March 2015). Emory is one of the largest shareholders in Coca-Cola and a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars from Coca-Cola founders and the Coca-Cola Foundation. Despite this, I prefer the taste of Pepsi products, and this has not in any way influenced my critique or commentary.]

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