Oct 22, 2009

Pepsi “Amp Up”: The Social Excuse Way & The Bad Buzz Strategy

Pepsi learns to “socially” apologize to women while playing it buzz macho.

Whether a difficult exercise or premeditated calculation, to promote its energy drinks Amp Energy, Pepsi took the initiative and developed an App for the Iphone entitled “Amp Up, Before you Score”, which involves “classifying” women into 24 different categories and obtaining “information” about these, as well as tips on how to seduce them.

They may be only stereotypes and caricatures, but, according to Pepsi, are in tune with Amp Energy’s male public.

Though it's not even certain that men identify with a simplistic vision of seduction, pretending to share common interests by using fitting responses provided by the application, which looks for them on Wikipedia or Twitter.

Would the public of Amp Energy be comparable to Pat Healy in the film There’s Something About Mary!?

Worse, this is the general overview of Amp Up Before You Score as it appears on the App store:
“Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify her type
    Got your eye on a girl, and aren’t sure how to get started?  Pick out her profile, flip the card, and study up quick with a cheat sheet on the stuff she’s into with lists, links and some surefire opening lines (surefire to what, we won’t say.)
  1. Keep a list
                Get lucky?  Add her to your Brag list.  You can include a name, date and                 whatever details you remember.
  1. Brag
    You got it?  Flaunt it.  Keep your buddies in the loop on email, Facebook or Twitter.”
Keeping with the "subtlety" of Amp Up, the App includes an "elegant" “After you Score”!  

In fact the App was not successful. Launched in mid-summer, Amp Up, Before you Score quickly topped out at 1400th according to Mőbclix, free Apps ranking .

This went on until “bad tweets” mainly from women started to appear little by little on Twitter provoking the release of very negative articles such as the one in the Wall Street Journal on Oct 13 entitled,
 “Looking for obnoxious chauvinism?  There’s an app for that.”

And so Pepsi found itself in the middle of a real brand image problem.

While Amp Up suddenly had a great public success by becoming, within two days, the 8th most popular free download, is this result positive for Amp Energy and Pepsi?

Some say yes, associating an energy drink with picking up women, male chauvinism, and seduction, is a well known strategy called “bad buzz”, adapted for this type of product.

However, the bad buzz strategy from now on, needs to take into account the existence of social networks and their capacity to impact a brands reputation.

For Seth Godin, known blogger and author of Tribes,

“Pepsi is learning a valuable lesson in social media marketing the hard way, for too long advertisers and marketers thought it was okay to treat women as objects to sell something.  The difference between now and then is [general public] now has a platform to complain about it.  This is a symptom of platform shifting.  Pepsi’s not the only brand that’s going to have to learn this lesson.”

This “citizen” change shows that the rules of “buzz marketing” have changed!  In the past, this was a way to help launch a product by creating a growing buzz, generated by communication actions, before or around the launching of a product.

However,  buzz were unregulated and shapeless by definition.  With the dawn of social networks, the buzz can no longer avoid taking the form of global conversations, nor can they avoid  the control that network users exert through these conversations concerning the value and authenticity of marketing campaigns.

Thus, if  Amp Energy could have been satisfied with this transgressive “bad buzz” toward its targeted audience and the growing success of the App on the Iphone, the brand now runs the risk of degrading its image and losing its footing to the playing field of this transgressive aspect.

This risk is high since Amp Energy largely associates itself with sports, including by promoting women.

Amp Energy is left with trying to repair the damage by presenting excuses.

Here the result is also catastrophic because Amp Energy apologizes but doesn't pull the App from the App store.
Once again this is a total lack of authenticity that does not go unnoticed in social network days.

Worse look at  the bottom of the excuse.  Amp Energy encourages Twitter users to send their comments using a specific hashtag called #pepsifail .

Behind the apparently good idea to open up a specific channel on Twitter, Amp Energy light-heartedly attaches the Pepsi brand, which is much more of a household name than Amp Energy.

The famous site Advertising Age very rapidly did the diagnostics of the situation,

“The Amp brand Twitter feed has only 1,000 followers, compared to about 15,000 for Pepsi, almost 18,000 for Mtn Dew and nearly 5,000 for PepsiCo
The tag, along with the re-tweets, seems to unnecessarily associate Pepsi and Mtn Dew, two of the company’s largest brands, with a heated and potentially damaging debate.  Ostensibly, those who have a problem with the app are not Amp’s core customers, after all.

But now that Pepsi, Mtn Dew, and Pepsi corporate have attached themselves to the debacle, the problem appears much larger, as those brands and, indeed, the entire company may appear insensitive to women.  For example, many of the tweets commenting on the app have bypassed the Amp brand entirely and are instead assigning the apology, the App and their distaste to Pepsi.”

Now New Fiction  a well known blog claims:
Bad buzz or social reputation?  It’s up to Pepsi to decide……

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