The Small Talk of All Brands

Pepsi What does Pepsi need to tell you in a given day? They want you to enjoy their product. They want to remind you that it’s very refreshing, or crisp, or whatever else you might think about when you think about a soft drink.

So, let’s say you hear that message today. They say, “Pepsi is a great drink for these first few days of spring.” You hear it, smile, nod your head, and maybe buy some Pepsi.

Then what?

Now it’s a few weeks later. They want more sales. They might say, “We know you like Pepsi. Do you also want to try Vanilla Pepsi?”

Then what?

If Pepsi (and when I say Pepsi, I mean any brand) is trying to share its message with you, the question becomes this: how much of it is important and how much of it is small talk? How much of it is a reminder? What parts of the message are just pings to remind you that you should pick Pepsi over some other brand?

Is that how we buy things? I’m not sure we decide on soda pop that way. I think we settle into a brand and prefer that brand over others. But let’s stick with this a while longer.

Pepsi UnleashedIf you’re Pepsi and you want to sell more, what other options do you have besides reminding people of your brand all the time? And if that’s what you have to do, how do you do it such that it’s not repetitive? And if you stopped reminding people about the brand, wouldn’t sales just drop?

One way to share that experience without being overpowering is to brand an experience. Pepsico did this with their Podcast Playground (disclosure: I was paid to make media at that event) at SXSW in Austin. They didn’t push or force or overpower. In fact, they were really eager to keep things slanted towards enabling others to make media. It was a kind of experience marketing.

My question, as is my question with most social media efforts: how do you know whether it sells soda pop or not?

What do you think about this? There’s a small talk to brands, some sense of ambient noise that happens. Is it important? When is it positive? What works and what doesn’t, in your mind?

What’s social media’s place in the small talk of these brands?

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/laradalch Lara Dalch

    Hi Jennifer.

    You’re absolutely right that Pepsi made an impact simply by being at SXSW, although I’m not sure that our chatter about it is a good measure of the impact given that we’re marketers and chatting about marketing campaigns is what we do. :) A better measure is probably the chatter on Twitter during the event. (Does anyone know if “Pepsi” trended at any point during SXSW?)

    My beef with it – and reading my post again, I didn’t make this clear – is that you really could have replaced “Pepsi” with “Cool, Hip, M18-24-Targeted Brand X” and had a similar experience. I’m wondering what was “uniquely Pepsi” about the whole thing. To me, experiences that could ONLY have come from that brand are the most valuable. (Admittedly, a tall order for a beverage brand.)

    Thanks for prompting me to clarify.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/laradalch Lara Dalch

    Hi Jennifer.

    You’re absolutely right that Pepsi made an impact simply by being at SXSW, although I’m not sure that our chatter about it is a good measure of the impact given that we’re marketers and chatting about marketing campaigns is what we do. :) A better measure is probably the chatter on Twitter during the event. (Does anyone know if “Pepsi” trended at any point during SXSW?)

    My beef with it – and reading my post again, I didn’t make this clear – is that you really could have replaced “Pepsi” with “Cool, Hip, M18-24-Targeted Brand X” and had a similar experience. I’m wondering what was “uniquely Pepsi” about the whole thing. To me, experiences that could ONLY have come from that brand are the most valuable. (Admittedly, a tall order for a beverage brand.)

    Thanks for prompting me to clarify.

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  • http://www.openzine.com/jhurlbusinessinsports Josh Hurlock http://twitter.co

    Chris,

    I believe small talk is important to an extent. A great amount of small talk shows that a business has not progressed much with the brand. For example, Pepsi does not need to constantly small talk customers. Nonetheless, I feel that small talk is needed here and there. This small talk should serve as a subtle reminder and make sure to not go overboard.

  • http://www.openzine.com/jhurlbusinessinsports Josh Hurlock http://twitter.co

    Chris,

    I believe small talk is important to an extent. A great amount of small talk shows that a business has not progressed much with the brand. For example, Pepsi does not need to constantly small talk customers. Nonetheless, I feel that small talk is needed here and there. This small talk should serve as a subtle reminder and make sure to not go overboard.

  • http://www.openzine.com/jhurlbusinessinsports Josh Hurlock http://twitter.com/JoshHurlock

    Chris,

    I believe small talk is important to an extent. A great amount of small talk shows that a business has not progressed much with the brand. For example, Pepsi does not need to constantly small talk customers. Nonetheless, I feel that small talk is needed here and there. This small talk should serve as a subtle reminder and make sure to not go overboard.

  • http://woome.com/veroniica12 Veroniica12

    Great question!

    Social Media is, by nature, engaging. The challenge is how to make this engagement genuine, rather than repetitive and numbing.

  • http://woome.com/veroniica12 Veroniica12

    Great question!

    Social Media is, by nature, engaging. The challenge is how to make this engagement genuine, rather than repetitive and numbing.

  • http://woome.com/veroniica12 Veroniica12

    Great question!

    Social Media is, by nature, engaging. The challenge is how to make this engagement genuine, rather than repetitive and numbing.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Here is how you determine social media’s ROI:

    “How did you hear about us?” or “What made you purchase today?”

    If the answer is never any of the social media channels, then you’re wasting your time.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Here is how you determine social media’s ROI:

    “How did you hear about us?” or “What made you purchase today?”

    If the answer is never any of the social media channels, then you’re wasting your time.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Here is how you determine social media’s ROI:

    “How did you hear about us?” or “What made you purchase today?”

    If the answer is never any of the social media channels, then you’re wasting your time.

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com ryancmiller

    Chris,

    I don’t know if Pepsi’s PodCast Playground presence at SXSW directly sold more beverages. But I do think that Experience Branding is super important and works, when the marriage is right. For instance, I don’t know if Firestone Tires’ PodCast Playground would work. There is no even an indirect line between the activity (PodCasting) and Tires.
    You could argue that Pepsi doesn’t have a strong tie either, but I think they have tried to brand themselves more as hip, young, ‘The Choice of a New Generation’ – and so sponsoring a podcast experience may tie in.
    Could Coke have done the same thing – possibly. But off the top of my head I think of Coke as being branded more as ‘classic’ ‘old school’ (and that’s not a bad thing).

    Point is, if that experience can be tied to the brand it may work. Plus, if people are putting out tons of content from SXSW, it can’t hurt to have lots of Pepsi logos in the bg.

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com ryancmiller

    Chris,

    I don’t know if Pepsi’s PodCast Playground presence at SXSW directly sold more beverages. But I do think that Experience Branding is super important and works, when the marriage is right. For instance, I don’t know if Firestone Tires’ PodCast Playground would work. There is no even an indirect line between the activity (PodCasting) and Tires.
    You could argue that Pepsi doesn’t have a strong tie either, but I think they have tried to brand themselves more as hip, young, ‘The Choice of a New Generation’ – and so sponsoring a podcast experience may tie in.
    Could Coke have done the same thing – possibly. But off the top of my head I think of Coke as being branded more as ‘classic’ ‘old school’ (and that’s not a bad thing).

    Point is, if that experience can be tied to the brand it may work. Plus, if people are putting out tons of content from SXSW, it can’t hurt to have lots of Pepsi logos in the bg.

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com Ryan Miller

    Chris,

    I don’t know if Pepsi’s PodCast Playground presence at SXSW directly sold more beverages. But I do think that Experience Branding is super important and works, when the marriage is right. For instance, I don’t know if Firestone Tires’ PodCast Playground would work. There is no even an indirect line between the activity (PodCasting) and Tires.
    You could argue that Pepsi doesn’t have a strong tie either, but I think they have tried to brand themselves more as hip, young, ‘The Choice of a New Generation’ – and so sponsoring a podcast experience may tie in.
    Could Coke have done the same thing – possibly. But off the top of my head I think of Coke as being branded more as ‘classic’ ‘old school’ (and that’s not a bad thing).

    Point is, if that experience can be tied to the brand it may work. Plus, if people are putting out tons of content from SXSW, it can’t hurt to have lots of Pepsi logos in the bg.

  • Tom Pastre

    Reminding is a way to keep the comfort level high in a brand. Constant small talk reassures the user that they’re doing the right thing, won’t have a bad moment, and will receive pleasure, even if it’s a small dose, every time they drink a Pepsi, eat at McD’s, brush with Crest, etc.

  • Tom Pastre

    Reminding is a way to keep the comfort level high in a brand. Constant small talk reassures the user that they’re doing the right thing, won’t have a bad moment, and will receive pleasure, even if it’s a small dose, every time they drink a Pepsi, eat at McD’s, brush with Crest, etc.

  • Tom Pastre

    Reminding is a way to keep the comfort level high in a brand. Constant small talk reassures the user that they’re doing the right thing, won’t have a bad moment, and will receive pleasure, even if it’s a small dose, every time they drink a Pepsi, eat at McD’s, brush with Crest, etc.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Your post leads down the path I’ve been arguing for a while – that much of social media activity (and even advertising for that matter) is not easy to measure. I love the statisticians and metric folks who say a billboard has this much impact and a mention on a certain blog has that much impact. But the truth is they don’t really know unless you define success as an exact measure (like impressions or clicks, etc.). But am I going to walk away from SXSW and buy Pepsi? Yes. Am I going to do so because of their activity at SXSW? Probably not. I’ve preferred Pepsi over Coke and others for years. While the Pepsi area at SXSW gave me more of a swell of pride over one of my favorite brands getting actively involved in the social media space, it won’t move the dial on sales for me personally. Will it for others? As much as I love Katie Payne and the rest of the measurement folks, we’ll never really know.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Your post leads down the path I’ve been arguing for a while – that much of social media activity (and even advertising for that matter) is not easy to measure. I love the statisticians and metric folks who say a billboard has this much impact and a mention on a certain blog has that much impact. But the truth is they don’t really know unless you define success as an exact measure (like impressions or clicks, etc.). But am I going to walk away from SXSW and buy Pepsi? Yes. Am I going to do so because of their activity at SXSW? Probably not. I’ve preferred Pepsi over Coke and others for years. While the Pepsi area at SXSW gave me more of a swell of pride over one of my favorite brands getting actively involved in the social media space, it won’t move the dial on sales for me personally. Will it for others? As much as I love Katie Payne and the rest of the measurement folks, we’ll never really know.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Your post leads down the path I’ve been arguing for a while – that much of social media activity (and even advertising for that matter) is not easy to measure. I love the statisticians and metric folks who say a billboard has this much impact and a mention on a certain blog has that much impact. But the truth is they don’t really know unless you define success as an exact measure (like impressions or clicks, etc.). But am I going to walk away from SXSW and buy Pepsi? Yes. Am I going to do so because of their activity at SXSW? Probably not. I’ve preferred Pepsi over Coke and others for years. While the Pepsi area at SXSW gave me more of a swell of pride over one of my favorite brands getting actively involved in the social media space, it won’t move the dial on sales for me personally. Will it for others? As much as I love Katie Payne and the rest of the measurement folks, we’ll never really know.

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  • http://www.lemoncayennepepperdiet.com lemonade diet

    Great question!

    Social Media is, by nature, engaging. The challenge is how to make this engagement genuine, rather than repetitive and numbing.

  • http://www.lemoncayennepepperdiet.com lemonade diet

    Great question!

    Social Media is, by nature, engaging. The challenge is how to make this engagement genuine, rather than repetitive and numbing.