Pepsi Refresh Targets Social Good

Pepsi launched Pepsi Refresh today, a massive social media campaign through which consumers support social causes. The New York Times has more:

The brand is dedicating at least $20 million through the end of the year for donations to local organizations and causes proposed by the public in realms like health, arts and culture, the environment and education. Ideas for Pepsi Refresh grants can be submitted each month to a Web site (refresheverything.com), where computer users can subsequently vote on the ideas suggested during the previous month.

The project is meant to tap into a booming trend for what is called cause-related marketing or pro-social marketing, by which corporations seek to back up their talk about benefiting society. The goal is to reach female high school and college students, said Lauren Zalaznick, president at the women’s lifestyle and entertainment networks at NBC Universal in New York, along with women ages 18 to 54, among them the mothers “we call ‘P.T.A. trend-setters’ ” who influence their peers.

Pepsi initially discussed the project in December when it announced that for the first time in 23 years it would forgo buying commercial time during a Super Bowl…although there will be commercials to promote the project, a considerable amount of the advertising will be digital as well as customized content created by the media partners. For instance, Pepsi will sponsor a reality show, “If I Can Dream,” on hulu.com, which Hulu describes as its first original long-form series. There will be at least 26 weekly episodes, and perhaps 52.

The emphasis the campaign places on social media demonstrates how “a big brand is letting what used to be called the audience take part in what can become a movement,” said Gene Liebel, partner for user experience at Huge in Brooklyn, which is handling tasks like the development and design of the refresheverything.com site.

Pepsi Refresh’s massive media blitz started today, according to the NYT. Kevin Bacon and Demi Moore mentioned Pepsi Refresh on this morning’s “Today” show. Facebook, AOL, Hulu, NBCU, MTV, Parade, ABC, CBS, and a slew of other publications are featuring content or ads for Pepsi Refresh, writes the NYT.

This is a big company devoting big money to a big campaign. Their currency? Votes and chatter. The lesson? Social media marketing is officially huge.

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