Pepsi, you just got Punk’d. Arnell Group, you just took the fizz out of branding.
Please excuse me while I go off on a rant. Last year, Pepsi hired Peter Arnell and his disciples to handle the redesign of their iconic red, white, and blue logo. The rumor is that Pepsi spent over $1 million on this assignment.
Umm, let’s just be happy that WE didn’t pay for it (fortunately for us, our government didn’t have to bail out the recession proof soft drink makers). Just think, they could have run a worldwide contest with every design school out there and gotten huge positive PR out of it. But instead, they turned to Arnell and his stable of “brand psychics.”
Turns out a freelancer posted the actual logo presentation deck on the Internet for us all to witness. The deck spins that the revamped logo draws on thousands of years of design principles, the Earth’s gravitational pull and the greatest works of art to persuade people to buy the sugary drink. The document called “Breathtaking Design Strategy” is littered with historical, philosophical, scientific, and mathematical ideas dating back to 3000 B.C.
At one point, the presentation compares “Planet Pepsi” to the Earth’s magnetic pull, with diagrams showing Pepsi as the gravitational force between the end of the aisle and the checkout stand. I kid you not. Check out some of these visuals. Straight up W.T.F.!?!?!
It’s unfortunate, as consumers already have an elevated “bullshit radar” for brand marketing. Companies that still believe that they are in charge are dead wrong. The consumer runs the show. Respect their intelligence. Involve them. Be authentic with your words “internally” and “externally”. Arnell must have had the the Pepsi marketing brass under some sort of spell (or waterboarded them with a truck full of 2 liter bottles of Pepsi One).
It’s important to remember that brand marketing done right can be extremely valuable for any new or established venture. Smart branding can make the difference between attracting outside investment and not. It can make cash registers ring or flat out turn consumers off. It can make your brand a champ with the people or a chump in the press. Brand innovation can generate strong brand awareness, inspire action, and result in a loyal following.
Just look at how beverage start up Jones Soda broke through using user-generated content on their labels. Pepsi shelling out $1M+ for a logo is not innovative, it represents old school Madison Avenue principles that have very little relevance today. Want value back? Then don’t hire a giant agency that has a ton of overhead, giant salaries, and talent that is past their prime & out of touch. In this economy, you need to collaborate with big thinkers than know how to do more with less.
EXTRA TIP: Before pulling the trigger on an outside vendor, make sure you thoroughly vet them beforehand (or at least google them with the word scam after their name. Psst…this isn’t Arnell’s first violation.
This is the second time Pepsi’s logo has drawn some unfavorable press. When it debuted just before the inauguration, consumers thought it looked eerily similar to President Barack Obama’s “O” campaign logo.*
*Sidenote: there’s a great blog called SemiObama which looks closely at the visual representations of Obama and unpacks the various cultural, religious, national, and political icons and symbols surrounding him that are used to evoke meaning and emotional reaction.