Pepsi Bottles and the Pepsi Perfect Disaster
Why Does Pepsi Keep Missing a Big Opportunity?
Let's talk about something that may not seem important to many people, but to Pepsi, it could be the difference between flat sales, and a huge spike.
That is....the bottle shape.
The battle between Pepsi and Coca-Cola has been going on for decades, with Coke almost always having the edge. The rivalry is intense, with each trying to outgun the other. And as the taste of both is very, very similar, it comes down to marketing, advertising and packaging to win over new customers.
The Coca-Cola bottle (at least, the traditional glass one, not the tacky new plastic one) is an iconic shape. One that you could actually spot in the dark, because the feel was so unique. How do you top that?
Well, Pepsi attacked it back in 2013, with a brand new bottle shape that replaced the current, 17-year-old model. The first thought that came to the minds of many people, including the humble author of this article, when the news was released was "yes!"
Why? Well, six words explain it...
Back To The Future Part Two
Since 1989, consumers and movie fans alike have been asking (no, begging) Pepsi to release the bottle crafted just for the 80's café in Back To The Future Part Two. (We could talk more about the endless product placement in that movie, but we don't have the time…it was as blatant as the parody in Wayne's World.)
Anyway, if you aren't familiar with it (please, get familiar quickly), Marty McFly dresses as his hapless son Marty Jr., and then goes into the Café Eighties.
He's greeted by computerized versions of Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and then, the Ayatollah Khamenei. Regan and the Ayatollah argue until Marty shouts "Hey, all I want is a Pepsi!" (See...blatant product placement).
Out of a magic contraption in the bar comes the Pepsi Perfect bottle. It's great.
Slim, sleek, with a big, bold cap. Of course, it was designed purely for the movie, to look good on film and to separate it from the typical Pepsi bottle of 1989. This was the present, looking at the future, looking back at the past.
Since then, both Back To The Future fans, and Pepsi fans that know of its existence, have been clambering for that bottle. And Pepsi, having a ton of disposable income, decided to change the bottle after 17 years…into a bottle NOT from the movie, but one that was about as distinctive as a crow in a room full of ravens.
A Change is Not Always as Good as a Rest
It is baffling to think that Pepsi spent millions and millions of dollars on a brand new bottle, when it was no more interesting or different than the one it replaced. In fact, some may argue that the former bottle had more of a distinctive shape than its replacement.
One of the phrases to live by in advertising is this one:
And Pepsi pushed a very safe redesign onto the general public. It looks like a regular bottle. It feels like one. It certainly doesn't have the wow factor that would constitute the money taken to develop it. It's staggering that this move was made, which was no doubt very expensive and resulted in very few people noticing anything at all.
In 2015, Pepsi DID Release a Pepsi Perfect Bottle. Badly.
After the 2013 change, it was announced that in 2015, to celebrate the day when Marty McFly arrived in the future, Pepsi would be releasing an actual Pepsi Perfect bottle.
Cheers erupted everywhere. Yes! Finally, after much prodding, the movie bottle would be released. Pepsi had learned from their mistake, and were going to give fans everywhere just what they wanted.
Well, that's what everyone thought.
The Pepsi Perfect PR Dissater. How Do You Mess This Up?
How? Well, here's a play-by-play account of some dumb decision-making.
Pepsi announced that it was going to be a very limited edition run, and the bottle would be $20. Yes, $20 for a bottle of soda, putting it firmly in the movie collectible category, and not something that would spread beyond that.
Second, the roll-out of the new bottle was severely mismanaged. The time announced for the bottle to go on sale, coupled with links that some people got, and others didn't, meant that true fans of the bottle had very little chance of getting one. In fact, most of the bottles were scooped up by resellers, who paid $20 for the bottle and put it straight up on eBay for $300!
Pepsi tried to make good by releasing another batch, on another date, but once again the bottles were taken by resellers looking to make a quick profit. Pepsi could have used this new bottle to relaunch the brand, and we could have seen these distinctive bottles everywhere. They would have been marketing gold for Pepsi. They could have stocked vending machines with them.
Instead, the Pepsi Perfect bottles are collecting dust on the shelves of prop collectors, and real fans got the cold shoulder. This is yet another example of a company being tone deaf to the needs and wants of its customer base.
Shame. Big shame.