Posted on The Economist
Will Pepsi profit by enlisting the public in its philanthropic efforts?
THE 107m Americans who tuned in to watch the Super Bowl on February 7th did not see any advertisements for Pepsi. Instead of spending $20m on a handful of 30-second spots, the firm decided to give that amount away. Under the slogan “Refresh Everything”, the Pepsi Refresh campaign asks the public to vote online for charities and community groups to receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. A few days before the game its arch-rival, Coca-Cola, was also bitten by a charitable bug. It promised to give $1 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America every time someone watched its Super Bowl ads on its Facebook page, up to a maximum of $250,000.
Pepsi Refresh is probably the most prominent example so far of “cause marketing”—trying to win customers by ostentatiously doing good. Other recent examples include Chase Community Giving, in which small charities competed to win $5m in donations from JPMorgan Chase, and American Express and NBC Universal’s “Shine A Light” programme, which awarded a grant of $100,000 to a small business chosen through its website.
Marketing people say consumers are increasingly trying to do good as they spend. Research in 2008 by Cone, a brand consultancy, found that 79% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause, up from 66% in 1993, and that 38% have bought a product associated with a cause, compared with 20% in 1993.