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Staying cool and relevant to younger audiences is one of the perennial problems for brands that have an audience that skews younger. Pepsi is one of those brands and, while it’s not always got it right, its latest work in India is showing the brand still has some swag.

The FMCG giant has roped in Bollywood star Salman Khan as its ambassador to connect with younger people about the anxieties they have in life and give them the confidence to be themselves. 

 

 

The latest TV ad by Wunderman Thompson, which shows Kahn tackling social judgment, is part of a wider platform called ‘Har Ghoont Mein Swag’ which aims to create a mindset for the youth around a ‘swag ideology’.

The Drum spoke to a Pepsi spokesperson about how the brand is maintaining its cool among the tougher competition to connect with younger audiences. 

“Pepsi is a youth-centric brand and has always had a pulse on the evolving beliefs and trends of the younger generation. We did research and found out that there are many anxiety points that the youth deal with every day which bog them down and shake their self -belief,” explained the spokesperson.

“Hence, the idea germinated from this research and on how Pepsi, which is a brand for the young generation in every generation, can create a campaign that resonates with the contemporary ideas of the youth of today. Thus, we wanted to become the voice of the new generation by picking up their causes and conflicts in our effortlessly cool way.”

The average age of the Indian population is 29, with 65% of the population younger than 35, so if there was one market to crack youth marketing, India is it. This fact is not lost on Pepsi.

“India is a young country and the future lies in the hand of the young generation. Hence, it is important that the right values are imbibed, and we have a country full people who are self-confident and have unshakeable self-belief and irrefutable swag. As a brand, Pepsi urges the swag ideology of “Har wrong ko right bana de” to be part of the culture thereby encouraging people to be their true selves,” said Pepsi.

Importantly, Pepsi said it isn’t purporting to support this mantra just to be cool, it believes the younger generation needs support in this manner because it’ll help them make better life choices, adding a social good angle on its campaign.

“Youngsters are the torchbearers of the future and we believe that the youth needs to be encouraged and supported for the choices they make in life. Pepsi is a brand that has always resonated with the beliefs of the young generation and each year we try to introduce a campaign which builds on the voice of India’s youth.”

The brand elected to use Salman Kahn as the ambassador of this message and, rather than skew only to the youth, he was actually chosen for his impact across many generations. 

“Pepsi has constantly innovated and reinvented itself to create experiences that connect with consumer passions, be it Bollywood, Music or Sports. The brand has also consistently partnered with artists and icons of today’s generation to build a strong connection with its consumers. Roping in a celebrity helps drive greater salience, deliver brand messages and helps in getting access to millions of eyes for a new campaign.”

“We feel someone who is effortlessly cool and is synonymous with the brand’s proposition of swag would have been the right fit to spread the message. Given Salman’s effortlessly cool attitude, the young generation strongly relates with him and he resonates with the word, swag, in a way no one else can. We believe that the combination of Salman Khan’s wide appeal across geographies, strong connect across generations and genders makes him the perfect fit to drive home the message in an entertaining manner.”

Pepsi said the campaign will be supported throughout the year with additional investment into digital, social, radio and outdoor. An execution it launched in February for Valentine’s Day clocked over 120 million views on YouTube, with Pepsi stating that this shows the campaign is hitting the right note with the hard to please youth.