The Pepsi Longthroat Campaign
Whoever said the ‘cola wars’ were dead and gone?
In Nigeria, the battle lines have always been drawn between the usual players: global giant Coca-Cola, armed with a seemingly limitless marketing budget, 1st mover advantage and die-hard consumer loyalty; and Pepsi, the choice of a rebellious new generation, with less marketing spend and guerrilla warfare in mind. Within the context of this 50 year rivalry entered from the flanks a new player: Big Cola, a new opponent looking to shake up the status quo and establish itself in the category.
The entrance of this new competitor amidst tough economic conditions and stagnant category growth, meant Pepsi was facing a tough year, which would make or break them in this market. For a market driven by price and value perception, Big Cola had the right offering to attract first adopters, and gain quick momentum. In light of this, the brief from the client was simple – protect and grow volume share. As a result the agency offered an equally simple solution: make brand Pepsi too engaging for consumers to ignore by giving people shareable content that would create a new and engaging narrative around the brand. Thanks to the steps taken, not only did Pepsi become the love mark of youth culture, they also saw a much needed growth in consumer demand for their product, resulting in a huge rise in sales.
Market Background and Objectives
In the cutthroat world of carbonated soft drinks (CSD), there has always only been two front runners in this market: heavyweight market leader Coca-Cola and underdog Pepsi (first introduced in 1960, 10 years after Coke), a close 2nd place despite a smaller marketing budget and limited distribution network (Coke dominates in fast food outlets, supermarkets, etc). But of course nothing remains constant, and even 2nd place can be a very precarious position to be.
Two major things happened in 2015 to upset the balance of power within the cola category:
1. The Nigerian market started to gradually shift taste in terms of packaging preference. The category, once dominated by RGB (Returnable Glass Bottles), was seeing a rapid shift towards plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle consumption. This PET packaging was experiencing rapid growth, primarily driven by a shift in consumer lifestyles and usage habits.
Growing urbanisation brought with it traffc, meaning consumers were perpetually in transit. More and more consumers required beverages they could carry around without spilling. RGBs were also considered ‘uncool’ compared to the newer, better branded PET bottles. RGB’s were no longer able to meet key consumer expectations such as convenience, hygiene, changing social behaviour and image. PET however fit perfectly into this new image conscious, and “on the go” consumer mindset.
2. This growing phenomenon created a convenient environment for the entrance of new players who could more easily launch themselves into the Cola category as a result of the PET packaging (which was significantly lower in terms of the cost of production versus the RGB’s).
To nobody’s surprise, the beginning of 2015 saw the entry of Big Cola, a South American brand, positioned as a value cola for a youthful generation, essentially a budget version cola. Big Cola entered the Nigerian Cola category with a strong value for money proposition – offering 20% more Cola than its competitors, at the same market price. This entry strategy, coupled with the fact that main rival Coke was investing aggressively in their PET range thanks to their well received ‘Share-a-Coke’ campaign meant that by the end of April 2015, Coca-Cola’s PET volume figures were out-performing Pepsi’s PET 3:1.
The implication of these events was 2 fold: Total share-of-stomach size for Pepsi shrank based on overall volumes sold in PET; and there was a reduction in overall market share for Pepsi, even though internal sales targets were being met (2016 Millward Brown Tracker Study). The increasing pressure on Pepsi had to be addressed before the brand found itself losing the gains made in its battle with Coke, and playing 2nd fiddle to a new entrant.
The agency was tasked with helping Pepsi regain volume and value share from Big Cola and Coke. To do this it became clear that we needed to exceed the current proposition of the new player by not just expanding the value perception of our PET packs.
This involved us:
- Creating value by giving consumers more than they bargained for: a bigger sized PET but at the same price. We had already seen the acceptance of a larger beverage format from the existing Pepsi 50cl RGB, so why not create a 60cl format in PET, but at the same price?
- Strengthening our relevance and connection with our core target consumers who, in this market, are sensitive to value offerings.
In a market where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line (Source: AMPS 2014), purchase decision is driven primarily by price and status value (the idea that owning brand X will elevate the perception of the buyers peers), Pepsi needed to be able to match not just the physical offering on the newcomer, but also had to be able to project an image which consumers would want to buy into.
So now that Pepsi had developed the new product offering (60cl for the price of 50cl – a 20% free offering), we needed an emotional hook, something much bigger and thought provoking to drive conversation, loyalty and buzz around the product, and ultimately the Pepsi brand that would eclipse competition.
Coke’s ‘Share-a-Coke’ campaign set the standard for marketing not only in its category but also within the market as a whole. For the first time ever, a major brand was connecting with consumers directly and putting their names on their product, and not just their western versions, but their cultural names in all their glory.
The buzz both online and offline was deafening, with consumers swarming supermarkets, activation booths, etc looking for their names, and those of their friends.
So, the big question for us became, “What can we offer our consumers, that connects deeper than their name on a bottle?”
Say Hello To The Pepsi Generation
From the symbol of a liberated youth in the 60’s and 70’s; to the “Choice of the New Generation” in the 80’s; to the champion of youth living in a world with endless possibilities, who “Dare for More” in the late 90’s and 00’s; Pepsi has always been about capturing the “Spirit of Youth”, providing stimulating refreshment that makes people feel current, connected and entertained to capture the excitement of now.
For an ever growing youthful Nigerian population, over 70% of which are below the age of 35 years (Source: AMPS 2014), this proposition still rings true. For them ‘now’ is a mindset, an active approach to life, collecting social experiences and living in the moment because no matter the economic or political turmoil, tomorrow can take care of itself, and today needs to be lived now.
Capturing this spirit of youth however meant tapping into the very heart of pop culture, causing Pepsi to ask, “What exactly is ‘now’ for our audience?”
Working With A Critical Insight
Nigerians as a people are very aspirational by nature and can be characterised by their desire to acquire all the good things that life has to offer, celebrating each and everyday for the blessing it is, despite the hurdles they face regularly. They do this with not just determination, but also a huge serving of dark humour, finding joy in the situations that would ordinarily break them, and flipping them to see the funny side of it.
By positioning Pepsi as the brand that fuels their hunger for more, to seize every moment and make the most of it, we could begin to connect with this aspirational and optimistic consumer. But these were familiar territories for many brands in this market, both within and outside of the category. How were we going to appeal to this aspect of our consumer’s personality while still remaining fresh, youthful and uniquely Pepsi?
Say it loud: “Young, Nigerian & Proud!”
Changing social attitudes have meant that Nigerian youths and Nigerians as a whole are no longer willing to just accept the influences and tastes of the west. Instead, driven by a rising global profile and cultural confidence, they are reinventing and reinvesting in what Nigerian culture is.
Growing trends within the country have seen Nigerians promote Nigerian fashion, music and slang in their daily lives. By tapping into locally relevant content, we felt we would be able to engage consumers in their own social language, ensuring purchase consideration, and loyalty in the long term.
How did we do it?
We took the ambitious nature of our markets, that need to have it all, and localised it for a market that was hungry to embrace its culture once again; and thus, the Longthroat campaign was born.
Long throat is a widely known, but not frequently used expression universally understood in Nigeria to depict a person who is always longing for more. Its usage is primarily a tongue-in-cheek, take on greed; literally depicting a person who is straining to look for the extras not on his plate.
In a tropical country where cool refreshment is critical, and almost insatiable, ‘longthroat’ was the perfect description for our new 60cl bottle, more Pepsi refreshment, but at the price of a 50cl. The new Longthroat bottle would invite our always seeking, always thirsty consumers to fully satisfy their thirst on a functional level, while connecting with them through their hearts, by giving them a platform to express their ambitions, hopes and dreams.
And our growing social media scene was the perfect channel to start the conversation.
The Journey To ‘Social’
Before the deregulation of the Nigerian telecommunication sector in 1999, few Nigerians had access to computers, while the lack of sufficient technological infrastructure such as the Internet and mobile phones restricted communication within the society. However, with the deregulation of the telecommunication sector, social network spread like wide fire in Nigeria. Of Nigeria‘s 184 million people, over 70 million are active online, and about 14 million have active social media accounts, a large majority of which are between 18-35 year olds from different walks of life (Source: CIA Fact Book, AMPS, WeAreSocial).
As a tool, social media has not just sped up conversations in a more interactive way, but it has provided a platform for youth to better express their interests, frustrations with the government, etc online, especially in a society where youth is seen and not heard.
With the introduction of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc came the popularity of microblogging, making expression faster and more interactive; users not only consumed content, but were able to create it at an alarming rate, using memes, gifs and online skits to express their point of view and the unique Nigerian sense of humour.
Social media provided Pepsi the opportunity to not only join the ‘now’ conversations, but to also influence it. Online became the starting point for our campaign, a platform that would make conversation between the brand and its consumers a two way process, not just one sided.
Implementation, Including Creative and Media Development
Our campaign strategy centred around setting the right context for Longthroat (guarding against negative feedback and backlash), getting consumers to participate (by creating their own content, interacting with their idols and of course Pepsi), and leveraging on the buzz generated online and creating a new social movement (to ensure longer reach, and memory retention).
Generally ‘longthroat’ is seen as a humorous bit of slang, however it can be slightly offensive when taken in a particular context i.e a greedy person. To avoid backlash, it was critical to set it in the right context, one that was humorous and not meant to cause offence. The aim was to make the phase more of an action, a way to be, than a descriptor.
Our campaign began with a major buzz generating 2 week teaser campaign with the hashtag #THINGSILONGTHROATFOR, driven by key online influencers (bloggers, etc), including our Pepsi brand ambassadors Wizkid & Tiwa Savage.
These influencers helped express the ‘longthroat’ thinking online, using humour to vent about what they ‘longthroated’ (desired) for in life, or at that particular moment. Almost instantly, the hashtag went viral as their fans began to respond with posts about their own desires.
Because of our audience do not just consume what is online, they also create it, after we provided consumers with shareable content to set the context for Longthroat, our online influencers began encouraging them to not just listen, but also talk back. This process ensured that consumers would create content that would be shared with their own followers, thus feeding the viral machine and getting the campaign more traction.
But there is a twist…
Still in the dark that #ThingsILongThroatFor was part of Pepsi’s masterplan to launch its 60cl bottle, the public were still none the wiser when music artist Seyi Shay posted a tweet as if to join in the fun, declaring that she longed to become a Pepsi brand ambassador too.
Unaware that she had secretly already signed with the brand as its new ambassador and was actually part of the campaign, the public erupted in mass excitement to find out that her wish had simply been made true by Pepsi upon reading her tweeted wish. Even more people began to participate in these early stages of the campaign making #ThingsILongThroatFor the highest trending topic in Nigeria, even surpassing national passion topics such as football and politics
But what about those not on social media?
With such a large number of the general population living without constant access to social media, it was important to also connect with them on the channels they were on.
We tapped into popular drive time radio talk shows, owning the conversation around Longthroat. The OAPs use funny anecdotes and jokes to tell humorous stories and talk about #ThingsILongThroatFor. During this interactive show, listeners tweet/text/call-in to give their own funny ‘long throat’ stories and mention the things they long throat for.
The participation was endless as blogs and radio on-air personalities picked up on the electrifying twitter banter surrounding #ThingsILongThroatFor with articles, radio hypes and show that pumped up listeners and supercharged the viral hashtag.
With #ThingsILongThroatFor in full gear and trending on social media for 4 consecutive days, it was time for all 3 Pepsi music ambassadors to reveal the all new Pepsi 60cl pack as the satisfyingly refreshing ‘Long Throat bottle’.
After our 2 week online teaser phase, our above-the line campaign also broke on public transportation, billboards and radio, still using the Pepsi brand ambassadors as drivers. To get maximum leverage, Pepsi invested in a targeted 360 degree communication to ensure that the Longthroat campaign was visible in key cities.
Pepsi would also reach out to thousands of our grass-root consumers with an aggressive on-the-ground engagement, showcasing the Longthroat bottle across different centres over a period of 22 days.
Performance Against Objectives
Creating a social movement.
In less than 6 weeks, viewership had reached over 800k views on YouTube making it Nigeria‘s most watched TV commercial on YouTube; Twitter followership grew from just 300 followers to close to 40,000 followers, overtaking Coke.
- Timeline impressions :1,285,169,269
- Unique contributors:29,676
- Unique reach: 76, 815, 731
- Timeline impressions: 45,392,659
- Contributors: 2,223
- Unique reach: 15,105, 850
- Youtube Views: 876,653 views
‘LongThroat’ returned to everyday speak, used now in a humorous context, not just to describe a person, but also to describe the action. Today, Longthroat continues to remain a hot topic amongst Nigerians, achieving its aim of not only prompting conversation but shaping culture as well.
The campaign was a great success not only online (by increasing brand equity and buzz around Pepsi), but also saw great gains offline.
Before the campaign Pepsi was recording a 15% average growth, however after
‘longthroat’ PET sales grew by over 60% (Neilsen Retail Audit 2016). Pepsi is struggling to meet volume demand in key cities in the country thanks to increase consumer demand, and is enjoying unprecedented love from fans who still use #thingsilongthroatfor and ‘longthroat’ online and in everyday conversation.
The 60cl campaign / launch excited Pepsi’s existing consumers to consuming more frequently and at the same time boost equity around regular consumption.
- The success of the campaign hinged on the employment of a fully integrated marketing approach, using brand ambassadors across all media touch points to connect with and engage consumers along the way.
- Radio and Online especially, provide a very effective mix when talking to the youths in Nigeria, providing different avenues for conversation to those online and offline.
- Celebrity endorsements/social media influencers/on-air personalities provided a lot of buzz, driving conversation around the campaign and keeping momentum through out its duration.
- When brands like Pepsi are able to relax and let their hair down, consumers will view them more favourable, seeing them as authentic (especially when engaged on a cultural level).
- Global brands need to consider local Insights when developing campaigns in different markets as these insight help touch the consumer on a very basic, heartfelt level, giving them the feeling that they are in consideration, and not an afterthought.
- Great stuff can happen online; it is no longer an ‘alternative’ or value for money channel for brands. Online provides a platform for integration between brands and their audience that traditional marketing routes do not necessarily facilitate, and as such it holds great promise not just for the consumer looking to express themselves, but for brands to be their true selves online.