Vin: Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you’re going to put in your ear. I’m Vin, the Associate Producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market. And we’ll have a little fun along the way. In today’s episode, Vincent and Ajay chat with Todd Kaplan, the VP of Marketing at PepsiCo. He talks about how Pepsi is a household name and how over the decades, the brand does more than just the average advertising with creating content. Vincent goes on vacation to a resort and Ajay is happy to see Vincent. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, hello and welcome to another episode of Stirista’s, the Marketing Stir. I of course and your always happy host, Vincent Pietrafesa. It drives my wife crazy, my enthusiasm. Most people enjoy it, but not her. Anyway, it is so good to be back talking to our wonderful listeners and thank you for listening. My marketing team tells us our listenership gets bigger and bigger and thank you. That’s all because of you. And our guests, it’s really not me, it’s you the people and the guests that we have on and maybe my co- host. But anyway, thank you so much, Stirista, for those of you who don’t know us and those who don’t know me, I’m Vincent Pietrafesa. I’m the Vice President of B2B products here at Stirista. Let’s pause for one minute, Stirista, that’s the only time we talk about it. We are a marketing technology company. We own our own business to business data, our own business to consumer data. We help customers utilize that data to get new customers. We have our own email sending structure. We own our own DSP, we can help you with OTT, connected TV display. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. So many people have emailed me. Thank you. Most people email me to say you like the podcast. Others make guests suggestions. Some people are interested in our services. Great. Thank you so much. Enough about me. Enough about Stirista. Let’s introduce my co- host, who I will see in person, not once, but twice in the next few months. What a treat. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What’s up Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey Vincent. It’s been a couple of weeks I was going through some podcast withdrawals. So, I’m actually glad to see you, which I don’t say often enough.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Or ever for that matter.
Ajay Gupta: Or ever. Might the first one.
Vincent Pietrafesa: It might be the first time. It’s a marketing stir first, ladies and gentlemen, we have it recorded, so there it is, I’ll bring it up, play it on loop every time I hear you. But yeah, it has been because I was on vacation, that’s why I still have a little resemblance of tan here. I was enjoying that with my family. Well, it’s a trip when you go away with your family, it’s not really vacation when you go away with a five- year- old and a two- year- old, but it was fun.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah. I don’t know what’s stressful with kids that age, staying home or going somewhere.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly. Well, I think it’s going somewhere. Once we got to the resort, I was in the beautiful Cancun, Mexico. I was at the Vidanta resorts. Let’s give Vidanta a shot out maybe. I have nothing to do with it. My in- laws have a timeshare there, but I was there, and I had fun. I actually watched a Super Bowl there. We’ll get to that in a moment. That’s a little hint of this particular guest involvement that we have there. People are like, ” What? Snoop Dogg’s here?” I’m like, ” No, not Snoop Dogg, but someone I think equally as cool.” But enough about that. But Ajay, I’m going to see you not once, but twice in the next couple weeks, even more than that, because I’m going to San Antonio, we have there’s other trips. There are conferences opening back up. People are eager to get out there. It’s going to be fun.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah. I’m looking forward to next week. I think I haven’t been out of the house in a while. I was starting to get a little bit depressed with all of my little tears as our viewers have followed along my journey into the late 30s has not been pleasant.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Oh, you did tear in this, tear in that playing tennis. I was like, ” Is this guy? Oh really? Did he do it in Wimbledon? No, he did not. He did it San Antonio just playing with some teams there.”
Ajay Gupta: Just some lesser-known players in courts.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly. But Ajay, we’ve got a special, special guest today, because it’s a brand. We’ve had many brands on that I’ve liked and enjoyed and bring you back to your childhood. This is one of my favorite brands. I’m not just saying it, it is one of my favorite brands. It is my favorite soft drink. This is a hint, ladies and gentlemen. This guy, I feel like I know you. I’ve said this before with few guests. Not all of them. For those of you, I didn’t say that to, well, we’ll just get to know each other better. But I feel like I know this guest. He currently lives in an area where I grew up. I’ve already given him restaurant tips, ladies and gentlemen, of the area. And I just feel like I know him because he’s a sports fan. You’ll see in a moment his background, you could see the area there. Let me just read off a few things, because I’m going to embarrass him a little bit, but he’s part of the brand innovators. Constant top 25, most innovated CMOs in the world, top 30 CMOs you need to follow. 40 Under 40, brand marketers, top 50 marketers in North America. He’ probably like, ” Come on. What are you doing to me here?” But I’m so proud to have this guest on. Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President, Head of Marketing for Pepsi. That’s right, ladies, gentlemen, Pepsi. Ladies and gentlemen, Todd Kaplan. What’s up Todd?
Todd Kaplan: Hey, thanks so much, man. How’s it going? Happy to meet you.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Going great. Glad you’re here. I love that background. That was the first thing I said. Most of you are listening to us and we appreciate that. Maybe you’re working out, maybe you’re at work, but Todd’s background is real. If you’re watching us on YouTube and I just go, I see Kobe Bryant cut out there. I see Michael Jordan. I see the New York Giants. So that makes me happy me those of you who know the pain I’ve been feeling the last few years on the podcast as a Giants fan, but love the background. It’s great to have you, Todd.
Todd Kaplan: No, thanks. I’m here in my home office here and yeah, I have a lot of collectible sports. I’m a big Laker fan as you can tell, growing up in Southern California and have a lot of fun Pepsi relics around here as well. So, I’m glad you enjoy it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: So, let me ask you this. So, this is not normal questions that we go right into, but I have you on here.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, I loved it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: First of all, Pepsi, let me tell you something about… I was watching the Super Bowl in Mexico, in my hotel room in Spanish and it was a great game. So, I have a couple questions about the game there. I know Pepsi’s involvement is huge. The halftime show, let me get, halftime show was amazing. Was amazing.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. Well, thank you.
Vincent Pietrafesa: What a great event. You were all over that. You were doing a lot with Rookie of the Year, and you were hosting your own conferences, if you will. Tell me about that first off.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. No, the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show is a major initiative for us at Pepsi. And obviously, our brand has a great legacy in music back in the day from Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Beyonce, everything in between. And the halftime show is this great. We’ve really approached this platform as one of the last great kinds of live cultural moments where we can drive a lot of discussion and a lot of things. And a lot of people don’t realize the scale of this platform that you get 100 million viewers on average at the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. That’s the equivalent of an artist playing to 5, 000 sold out Madison Square Gardens at once.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow!
Todd Kaplan: So, when you think of just the scale and the table stakes. And so, when we do it, we want to make sure we’re bringing some new energy. So, we brought in Roc Nation and Jay- Z a couple years ago to really reinvigorate the platform with us. And we’ve really built a whole different marketing planner around it where we’ve now, I don’t know if you saw this year, we dropped a trailer for the halftime show. Actually, this thing called The Call where we teased out all the artists together and how they’re all coming together and joining forces like in this Avengers thing. We also had this really cool second screen experience where we actually created an app this year, the Pepsi Halftime Show app, whereas the show was unfolding, you could actually teleport yourself onto the stage and see full 360 live from the stage what it looks like as they were going through the motions in this year’s show with Dre and Snoop and Em and 50 Cent, and everyone else. So, it was awesome. A lot of fun.
Vincent Pietrafesa: It was so much fun to watch. I’m a fan of all of them. Kendrick Lamar is a little past my era, but I love his music as well. That trailer was amazing. It’s like everyone kind of coming together. That was a great idea. And there’s a lot of people who just watch the halftime show. A lot of people, they don’t even watch the game. My wife was like, ” Tell me when the halftime show,” I kid you not, ” tell me when the halftime show is on.” And she watched that.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. No, that was the biggest piece of feedback we got this year was like, ” I wish it was longer.” And I’m like, ” It’s the intermission in between a football game, they got a game going,” but that’s the feedback I gave to the NFL. Is like, ” Hey, if we could just get an hour during halftime, that would be great and we could do it upright.” But no. It’s a lot of fun and it is a hard work and platform for us too. It drives a metric and Pepsi week call Share a Voice, which is we want to be the most talked about brand on Super Bowl Sunday. And actually, on Twitter, we won our third straight Twitter MVP award of their brand bowl, which basically means we’re the most talked about brand on game day. We had 74% of all tweets that were about brands on Super Bowl Sunday were about brand Pepsi, which is-
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s awesome.
Todd Kaplan: …a crazy amount. So, we’re very happy with the results.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. No, that is amazing. And before I ask about your role there, because you’re from LA or that Southern California originally, were you rooting for the Rams? Was that your team growing up?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. So it wasn’t, it’s interesting. And you can see on my sports relics behind me, the football starts to-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, it’s hard to tell.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, I know. So, football and being a Southern California native, I’m all in on the Lakers. I grew up in North Orange County in a town called Seal Beach. So, I was an Angels fan growing up, you see some Mike Trout stuff back here. But football, I’m a huge football fan, but the Rams and the Raiders both left town when I was growing up. Right?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.
Todd Kaplan: They went to St. Louis and to Oakland and that’s when the 49ers were big back then and stuff, but I’d watched Montana and Rice and all that, just like the Chicago Bulls with Jordan at that time. So, I’ve never really had a hardcore football team I’ve adopted since I’ve moved out east the Giants, as you flagged earlier here.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice.
Todd Kaplan: And sorry for all those Giants fans out there. Well, Giants fans aren’t far off right now.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. That’s been a great 5, 10 years here.
Todd Kaplan: Just to be fair. But it was really special being out there in Southern California, again, with a West Coast hip hop focused, halftime show being at SoFi Stadium. A lot of my friends who were still out there are Rams fans and stuff. So, it was really great being out there.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. That’s awesome. And then my official question then I know my co- host is eager to get to you, but my official question is everyone obviously has heard of Pepsi, but tell us about your role specifically, Todd, as far as your involvement, some of your day to day, we’d love to hear about that.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, sure. So, I lead marketing for the Pepsi brand here in North America. And so, I oversee a variety of different facets on my team, everything from strategy and innovations. So, hey, what’s our growth strategy for the brand? Where do we want to go and take it? The insights and all of that. Coming up with new products and innovation, we could talk about a new product we just announced called Pepsi Nitro that’s coming out a real game changing product. So, all that side of the team. We have a side of the team that does all of our brand communications and creative development and kind of culture forward stuff. So, everything from the halftime show to our digital plants, to our TV creative, to everything in between there, music, sports, et cetera. And then we have a whole side that does commercial and execution stuff. So, that’s what we talk about how we show up at Walmart or Target or 7- Eleven or Taco Bell with food service or all of our local divisions that we work throughout the country and connect it all. And so, all those elements together, how we basically, where we want to take the brand and how we’re performing in the current thing. And what’s been really exciting is I’ve been in this role now for a little over three and a half years, we’ve had a bit of a transformation since coming in where there’s a category in a brand that had been kind of declining for decades. And now we’ve just hit our 14th straight quarter of sales growth, our brand equities at an all-time high, we’re getting all this fun cultural buzz as well. And so, we’re really hitting our stride and having a lot of fun.
Ajay Gupta: Todd, once you started talking about Super Bowl, I didn’t think Vincent would let me ask a question. So, I’m glad you’re here.
Todd Kaplan: It’s okay. It’s okay.
Ajay Gupta: So, Todd, it’s so rare to see somebody at a company for as long as you’ve been at Pepsi. What got you into marketing and what got you into Pepsi?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. No, it’s a great question. I’d say I’ll start with kind of the marketing piece and ever since growing up, I’ve always been interested in kind of the why or the consumer psychology around things of why people do things. Why do you want this kind of sneaker? Why do you buy this kind of food at the grocery store? Why? So, I’m just very intellectually curious, I would say, and the psych piece has been always interesting. And then as well, skillset wise, I’m a very creative person. I’ve seen the world differently. I like kind of coming up with new ideas and venting, thinking differently, pushing things. And so, when I discovered the concept of marketing as a field and getting able to solve problems and strategically connecting these things with creativity and kind of this consumer insight, I got really into it and started to get my feet wet in college and then kind of got into it. And then Pepsi, I found my way to Pepsi after business school, where I interned at Pepsi while I was in business school. And it’s really a great company, not just because it’s a big brand and a big household brand that everybody knows and uses and things of that sort, but it’s connected to culture. And for me, while there’s an intellectual part of marketing of, I can sell laundry detergent or Kleenex or some other kind of products and things like that, and that are more functional of how and why you drive the sales of that. For me, what’s been interesting about PepsiCo and all the brands is the connection to sports and music and media and entertainment. And Pepsi largely credited back in the’80s of inventing this concept of lifestyle marketing, back when we were the first brand to sign a music artist in Michael Jackson and do commercials and starting to really do things differently. And I’ve really taken that throughout my career at PepsiCo. To answer your second question, I’ve spent a lot of time at PepsiCo because PepsiCo has a ton of great brands, billion-dollar brands, global brands, and I’ve done everything from I’ve created new brands. My role prior to this, I led our water portfolio. I created a brand called Bubly sparkling water. That’s going to be our next billion-dollar brand. I created Life Water, it’s a premium water that leverages the arts and taps into all that know, and I’ve worked on Mountain Dew, I’ve done a variety of different things over the years, sports marketing, you name it, energy. And there’s just a lot of fun opportunities. And what’s great is Pepsi really invests in its talent and tries to rotate and stretch and try you into new areas and opportunities, which has been really why I’ve really stayed as I continue to be challenged and stretched.
Ajay Gupta: Given kind of how well known the brand is, and not just in US, but pretty much any country you go to in the world has Pepsi, how much of advertising do you feel brands like Pepsi need and how do you kind of keep things interesting in the advertising for such a well-known brand?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. Well, I think it comes down to your fundamental understanding of advertising and what is it, as you said, the word advertising, which I hate that word, because it sounds so like archaic just by admission. Listen, and I say this every day, I get pitched stuff all the time from salespeople and all this. And if any salespeople are listening, please do not pitch me something like this, where it’s a logo slap presented by Pepsi, sponsored by… That does nothing for me. Awareness, we have the fortune on this brand, not on every brand of having massive household penetration and awareness. If you haven’t heard of Pepsi, I’m sorry, but a lot of people have heard of Pepsi. That’s great. I’m not trying to sound like a prick here. But what I am saying is the role that marketing plays for us is around this idea of brand relevance and equity driving and how we connect with consumers on a deeper and more emotional level. So, when you think about it in our category, we’re in a very, what I would call a low involvement category, which is Cola. It costs 1. 29 at the register for a 20 ounce. And a lot of times, it’s an impulse purchase. Hey, it’s hot out, I’m thirsty. Oh, I’ll grab something. Oh, let me grab something with my meal. I’m not really putting all the same amount of thought as to whether or not I buy a computer or a diamond ring or something that has a little bit more you’re really dissecting and analyzing which one should I buy How should I go in there? What am I going to be doing? And so, this idea of an impulse purchase, or a lot of it is kind of how your formative emotional memories in people’s brains in terms of how they perceive your brand. Are you in the consideration set? Does it connect with you? There’s obviously the product truths stuff they like. How you taste and all the different elements. And that’s where we innovate and continue to drive new areas. But it’s how it all connects back to this higher level of how people feel about the brand. This is a brand that I connect with on a deeper and more emotional level. And that’s been a lot of the focus of our advertising in things like music and how we connect with our consumers in new ways.
Vincent Pietrafesa: About Pepsi, it’s one of those brands, Todd, and we’ve had some other brands on where its food related and experiences. Pepsi for me, it’s always evolving. I’m the generation of, it’s a Choice of a New Generation.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s where I go to. So, that’s always ingrained in my head and it’s like, for me, Pepsi, that’s my soft drink of choice. And it’s like, I remember I have moments when I was a kid, barbecues, hot dogs, hamburgers, nothing fancy, Pepsi. There’s just some of my childhood memories. I know it sounds corny to the audience there, ladies and gentlemen, but this is what I associate it to. But I guess my question is it’s like, you’re constantly changing what’s gone into modernizing Pepsi’s brand image, because again, I remember Choice of a New Generation, that still sticks with me. You could crosstalk back.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, no, it’s one of those things. And back in the day, I’d say in the’80s, when the Cola wars were Coke and Pepsi and the arms race of all that stuff in the ’80s and’90s, I would say in the Cola space, the beverage landscape looked very different, and soda was a new interesting thing. And it was either Coke or Pepsi, not, ” Should I even drink soda to start? And if I do, is it Coke or Pepsi?” There’s now so many other beverage offerings from kombucha to iced tea, to coffees to this and that. And the good news is we have a lot of these offerings within PepsiCo. So, we continue to kind of evolve there, but I’d say for Pepsi, it’s about staying current as a brand with image. We’ve always been about kind of what’s next and staying relevant culturally. And so, the way in which to do that has to change and evolve over time. So, if in the past it was like, ” Hey, here’s a big TV ad campaign and let’s put a celebrity in,” and that’s fine. And we can do some of that stuff as well. But I’d say today, we’re showing up in what I would say, a modern way that brands show up today. And so, we don’t just do advertising. We’ve created our own content. We’ve created our own primetime TV show on Fox and the documentary on Showtime and reality show on MTV that we’ve produced. We’ve gotten into NFTs with the brand and started to really get into that new space. We’ve done big cultural moments like the halftime show. We’re trying to do new different things where we have this really culture first kind of mindset on the brand to really ensure that we’re reflecting and amplifying and adding to the current culture rather than just cramming some marketing messages down people’s throats.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And I want to touch upon the cultural part and Pepsi being culture forward. But I want to share with you another story that I use this term all the time, the Pepsi Challenge. I remember those commercials, the Pepsi Challenge.
Todd Kaplan: Yes, sure.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I still use that term in modern days, even when someone asked me about our data, I was like, ” I’ll take the Pepsi Challenge on that.” And almost to say like, ” I’ll prove to you I still use that.” Ajay, I don’t know if you remember the term, you’re younger than I am, but it’s like that still reigns, that’s something I use today.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. That’s one of the most famous kinds of textbook marketing things is when Pepsi versus Coke, and there’s this great book called the Other Guy Blinked by Roger Enrico or former CEO who was behind a lot of that stuff. And it was this great kind of how you challenge and how you get people to change and perceive new things as a brand. And so, yeah, that’s iconic, the Pepsi Challenge.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. It’s become part of my vernacular where it’s like people say like, ” Oh, it’s like the Michael Jordan of…” I’ll say like, ” No, I mean, this is how we’re different,” or it’s like, ” Oh, I’m better than that. I’ll take the Pepsi Challenge on that one. It’s crazy how I actually still…
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Vincent Pietrafesa: But anyway, let’s talk about culture forward.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: What does it mean to be culture forward? What are culture bombs? I also crosstalk.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. So, you’re referencing culture bombs. So, I’ve developed this nomenclature with my team, this concept, I call it Culture Bomb. And before getting into that, I’ll talk about what it means to be culture forward. And so, I have this point of view on marketing that talk about being a modern marketer. Everyone, if you’re in the marketing industry, listening to this, I would argue that 90% of the discussion in the industry agencies and everything is around media buying and creative developments. And it all focuses on this idea of what I’d call paid media and get more efficient, the ROI. How do you target these people, reach these people? There’s a huge role for paid, I got, but as you look at the media landscape and you say, ” Well, who’s even watching TV commercials? Or who’s not skipping the YouTube pre- roll? Or how do I reach people with all this pay?” It’s been harder and harder with paid media to be the only way your brand shows up knowing people consume media 24/ 7 through their phones, through them out of home, through the things they’re doing and participating in throughout. And so, the notion of earned media and social media, I think are very underrepresented in the marketing world today. And so, what I’ve tried to do is this idea of organic love of a brand, an organic chatter versus paid chatter. There’s a time and a place for, ” Hey, come by Joe’s Chicken Shack. We have a$ 2. 99 specials for whatever on this day, check it out.” Like informing people in paid stuff, I got it. But what you talk about, what you text to your friends, what you read about in the news, what you see on your Facebook and Instagram feeds is also what you’re consuming. And so how we show up there, not just in a paid ad unit, but organically is really important. And so that’s this idea of saying, being culture first, where a lot of brands miss the boat is they start with a very brand first narrative, I would say. Where they, ” Hey, my brand needs to achieve X, Y, and Z. I’m going to reach these people. And so, I’m going to push this creative message out into these places where these people are and you guys can just deal with it.” And there’s a time and a place, but that doesn’t sound that effective, because now people can skip the ads. They’re not as receptive. If you start from place of, ” Here’s what’s happening in culture. Here’s my brand’s point of view that I’m going to overlay onto it and see where I can connect to things that are organically happening.” That’s where you can then create these organic ripples in these moments. And so, we’ve developed this thing on my team I call culture bombs, which essentially, and it’s in the most nonviolent non way obviously I use a return bomb, but it’s this idea of dropping a bomb in culture. And by that means, this thing happens, and it should develop an organic ripple of earned media, social chatter, news coverage, whatever. And it happened. And to me, I always use this expression with my team of if a tree fell in the woods and no one heard it, did it even happen? You’ve probably heard that expression before. And I feel like in marketing, a lot of people at agencies in other brands and stuff are like, ” Hey, we did this whole program. And we took over time score.” And I’m like, ” I never freaking heard of it. No one texted me about it. I didn’t read about it.” So, did it even happen? If you’re the only people who worked on it, and who were talking about it, didn’t happen in culture? The halftime show’s a great example. That happened. Not just because I work at Pepsi, people know what happened. People talked about it the next day that is like on steroids, a nuclear version of a culture bomb, I would say of what that would do. But then there’s smaller ways to do this where we’ve done, you can see over my shoulder, these Pepsi Peeps cans, which around springtime, we did a collab with Peeps, the marshmallow Easter candy. And we made a first ever marshmallow flavored Peeps, so we called Peepsi and had a lot of fun with that. That thing just went crazy, was on every late-night talk show, people were selling it for$1, 000 on eBay and got people talking about how to get it online. And so just little fun ways to create these moments of these culture bombs is what we’re trying to really do in addition to the hardworking high ROI TV creative to really drive consideration.
Ajay Gupta: I’m sure you’ve had a lot of these moments that stand out for you, but is there one or two in recent years that you can highlight for our listeners?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. I mean, there’s a ton of different ones. It depends on where you going to. So, I talked about the Peepsi example, obviously from a product number, we’ve done a lot of these fun products from we’ve had Apple Pie Pepsi, we’ve done Peepsi, we’ve done a number of different things in between. Even back to you, you can even see behind me, this is a bottle of Pepsi Sparkling Rose that we partnered with Bravo. So, I’m not the biggest Bravo fan, but in my house, it’s constantly on TV as my wife loves all the real Housewives and all those kinds of shows and everything. But as you think about it, there’s this whole idea of rose. And if Lisa Vanderpump and all this stuff that she does. And so Bravo was having this thing called BravoCon, and we actually started with saying like, ” Okay, if Pepsi’s a brand that’s about unapologetic enjoyment,” which we haven’t even talked about, what our brand position’s about is about, ” If you’re really unapologetically, how do you enjoy the things that you love to that level where you almost just don’t give an F what people think you’re going to go to that next level?” And so, as you think about these people who are going to this BravoCon convent, we said, ” Hey, let’s make this Pepsi Sparkling Rose, let’s partner with Lisa Vanderpump and make it.” This thing had a line wrapped around the corner, people waiting hours just to sample this thing. And it was really just a way to engage, again, just some fun ways to engage some of these super fans. So, there’s been a lot of different things we’ve done from that. We’ve activated around NFL with our fall football plan. I can tell you stories for days on this. I don’t want to bore you guys too much, but there’s a lot of fun we’ve had.
Ajay Gupta: Great. A lot of people that listen to the podcast are younger marketing professionals or marketing students. We do a good job promoting it within that community. But one of the questions we like ask for somebody with your experience is, for somebody who’s getting into marketing or early career professional, what are some of the skills that they need to move up the ranks?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, I think I would argue just be a student of culture. I would constantly be looking, listening, learning, absorbing what’s happening. I think continuing to internally what I would say, the thing, at least for the type of marketing I like to do is I like people who like to push the limits a little bit or internally, especially in a big organization. You can have a lot of rightly so conservative thoughts around you, around, hey, you have legal constraints, supply chain constraints, finance constraints. This and there’s always going to be somebody saying, ” No. Hey, it’s not possible.” Or, ” We don’t have the money.” Or ” Hey, it’s a little too risky.” Or, ” We don’t have enough time.” And what I’ve seen is people who kind of just say, ” Okay, well, I guess we can’t do it. Let’s on to the next thing.” Be a little bit of a pain in the ass. Ask questions. I like to tell my team this idea of take not as a request for more information and start kind of pushing and asking respectfully in understanding why, because a lot of times, it’ll help unearth what the real opportunity is. We did this really fun activation this past year around this concept, we had called Better With Pepsi, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. But it’s this idea of an objective of really driving we call situational resiliency, this idea of Pepsi and food and the association of how Pepsi compliments food. And we have all these stats that show food taste better with Pepsi, certain types of food specifically, and burgers were one that specifically tasted the best with Pepsi. And so, I said, ” Hey, what if we put to test, we test us versus Coke, do burgers go better with Pepsi?” And we found that burgers do go better with Pepsi than with Coke, but ironically, the big three burger chains McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, all are for Coke. And so, we said, ” Hey, well, this just doesn’t feel right. Something needs to be done about this.” And so, we came up with this really fun campaign where we found our Pepsi logo inside of all their logos and we challenged them on National Burger Day to try it with the Pepsi. You knew yourself. And again, there was a lot of, I’d say back to the point of pushing as I talked to our legal team, as we talked to, ” Hey, how are you going to go out these companies? We’ve gone after Coke with a lot of the fun things we’ve done in Atlanta and stuff.” Being able to push and try new things, but do it also responsibly is really important to sometimes get to some of these really rich, great creative ideas that at a junior level, it’s very easy to not want to upset the apple card and just say, ” Okay, well, I guess I’m being told no, so I’ll try something else.” If you’re passionate about the right idea, you got to have that right mindset to push through your organization and learn and find the solve.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And Todd, you mentioned it before because I wouldn’t think to ask this because it’s Pepsi. It’s like, well, it’s one of the biggest brands, but what is your brand positioning? Talk to me a little bit about that. You mentioned that before. I’d love to learn more about that. Our audience as well.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, totally. So, I mentioned when I came into this role about three and a half years ago, Pepsi’s always been a brand that’s been about joy and the joy of Cola and all the kind of the next generation and all these things, there’s been a whole variety of different it’s evolved over the years. But one of the things back to being a modern marketer and modernizing the brand, I wanted to make sure everything we do is really anchored on real consumer truths and real consumer insights. And when you get into the data and you say, ” Okay, who are your most avid Pepsi drinkers? And how do they think? How do they feel?” There is one common trait that they all have, and it’s this idea of what we call unapologetic enjoyment. And by that it means they will clap at the end of a movie. They will go karaoke. They’ll play hook you from work to go golfing. They’ll eat that piece of cheesecake. That’s it. And what it means is basically having a moment where you don’t give a F and you just enjoy, even if it is in the face of judgment. So, someone might judge you for putting a Pepsi in your shopping cart in the grocery store, someone may judge you for doing whatever. And so, if you want to binge watch eight hours of Netflix instead of mowing the lawn and doing the laundry, we celebrate that as a brand. And so that’s kind of a core incident. We’ve brought that into this idea of joy, which has always been around these Pepsi occasions around being at a backyard barbecue, we’re doing at a baseball game and contextually where our product lives. And so, we’ve created this positioning around creating moments of unapologetic enjoyment, or instigating that for our fans. And it’s really been a north star, we’ve connected that to kind of this cultural lens of how we activate the brand in a way that I think is really distinctive, especially when you put the lens of our competition, that is a bit more classic, very aspirational in terms of this idea of happiness and kind of this very lofty almost Disneyesque view of the world, versus a very realistic of like, ” Hey, we see you. We get you. This is very how to enjoy unapologetically in the moment.”
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I like that. And I want to ask what are some of the new things coming out with Pepsi? I saw that Nitro, that’s… I’m like, “I’m giving you the answer here,” but I’m sorry, man, I saw that, that looks beautiful the way it’s being poured, kind of that like pub feel. But you talk about that if you want, but also what else on the horizon for Pepsi?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. So, you mentioned Nitro Pepsi, which is a really exciting new product that we just announced. And this thing has been, since I start on the brand, it’s a few years in the making. And the concept is really that as you think of Cola and the beverage space, there’s been flavor innovation for years, there’s been varieties of diet and zero calorie and all this kind of stuff going on. There’s been different packaging innovation, but the one thing that has never changed has been the bubbles. And when you think of one of the barriers to new people drinking in the category, one of the things we hear from consumers is, ” Hey, it’s a little too heavy. The bubbles, they’re gases. They make you burp. It’s too hard. It’s like it’s too biting.” And so, I said, ” What if there was a better way to make it a little smoother or a different way to experience Cola?” And so leveraging nitrogen technology that you might be familiar with, like in a Guinness or a Nitro coffee that really creates this cascading foam and this kind of almost the mustache after you drink it kind of a thing, and this kind of real thick head on it, we’ve developed the technology to be able to put that not in a can as well as on a fountain. And we’re rolling it out as we speak right now. And it’s a wonderful experience, very indulgent thick, kind of creamy, just a really different way to taste Cola that I think is a really new look and a way for new consumers who might not be in the space to really consider drinking a Cola, which has been great.
Ajay Gupta: Todd, one of our staple questions here is around LinkedIn. And you mentioned salespeople earlier, so this kind of goes hand in hand. So, what’s kind of a pet peeve that really bothers you when you get a LinkedIn message? And I can see you already have a few good ones. What’s the one?
Todd Kaplan: Yeah, man. How long do we get here? So, here’s what I’ll tell you. And I am convinced, and even though I know I’m a marketer, I am convinced if I took on a sales role at any organization, I would be the best salesman, because I’ve seen every freaking pitch in the book coming at me. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s not working, what’s working. What I will tell you what doesn’t work is spamming people, the form message of like, ” Hey, here’s whatever, here’s whatever. And just whatever.” I think two is even just the sales pitch for brand and a company… And again, I mean this in the best way, I like Pepsi, where we don’t have an issue, and I’m not trying to sound like a prick, we don’t have an issue with a lot of companies returning our call if we want to buy media somewhere or partner somewhere or whatever. And we have a lot of resources, there are things we don’t know about. And so, yes, I always love seeing a new media property or hearing about a new service or something. But listen, we will find you in a lot of the cases. And so, coming in with the hard sale hot, never, ever, ever works. I will say that again, it never works. So please do not do that. What works is building a genuine relationship as a human being and get to know somebody and maybe a subtle in form of like, ” Hey, check it out. We got this new thing, FYI.” And now that I know you exist, cool. That doesn’t mean you have work tomorrow, or we’re going to give your business tomorrow, but that means I know you exist. And that doesn’t mean you need to follow up every Friday and be like, ” Hey, how’s it going? Just checking in. I just want to see, there’s this thing changed.” That does a huge disservice. And so, the people who make traction kind of build authentic relationships, hang around. And listen, a lot of times, even with the best platforms, it’s not the right fit the right time, the right campaign. Other times, it’s the perfect moment. A lot of it is timing, luck. There’s a whole variety of things that come in, but I would just say the play is a little bit more patient and just try to build a genuine relationship, and we’ll find you.
Vincent Pietrafesa: We wrap this up. I could talk to you for hours just at sports alone. And clearly you could tell that I’m a fan of the brand. And your passion shines through, so we love that. Todd, talk to me about you probably been to a lot of Super Bowls. My question is, hey, first, were you at’07 and’11 with the Giants? And were you there?
Todd Kaplan: Yes. I saw the David Tyree helmet catch.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Helmet catch. Yes.
Todd Kaplan: Actually, it was exciting as I was even in, after that Super Bowl, I was fortunate enough to be in the, I was on the float in the Giants parade-
Vincent Pietrafesa: No way!
Todd Kaplan: …which was pretty cool. That was fun. I got offered to do that. That was a very unique experience, but yeah, no, I was at that Super Bowl. That was great.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Was that the’07 or’11? Were you the parade for both of those, 2011?
Todd Kaplan: Just for 2011’s parade, I was… Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: So, 2011 goes right down Broadway and makes a right on Worth Street here in Manhattan. I lived on the corner of Worth and Broadway. So, I didn’t work that day. I called, I played hooky. I was one of those guys.
Todd Kaplan: There you go.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I didn’t work here, Ajay, at the time. I wasn’t here in 2011, but I had a bunch of people over and we watched the parade right from my door. I was like, “All right, this justifies the rent for a month here in New York.”
Todd Kaplan: No, totally. Totally. I mean, just, it’s always good to see the city and New York. I mean, that’s one of the things you look at the Hall of Champions or when you come down the parade route, it’s-
Vincent Pietrafesa: Canyon of Heroes. Right. Canyon of hero. That’s right. Yeah, yeah.
Todd Kaplan: Yeah. The Canyon of Heroes. Thank you. Canyon of Heroes. Thank you. I totally butchered that. But it’s just awesome seeing just everybody come together and unite around something. And in any city frankly, when you see, I mean, even just looking at, I remember seeing years ago when the Kansas City Royals one, or the Chiefs. It’s just like, you just see a sea of people in a whole city taken over and so in New York, it’s a very special thing when the teams… in LA where I’m from, when the Lakers win, it turns into people flipping cars and riots and all sorts of other stuff. So, people get a little carried away with it too, but it’s awesome. And it’s a lot of fun. That’s what’s great about sports.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, I know. I love it. That was the happiest moments of my life. That was before I was married and I had children if my wife is listening, she’s not. But also, Todd, what are some of your hobbies? What do you like doing there? Now, you have to go to Michael’s Pizza. I told you about that recommendation.
Todd Kaplan: I clearly have to check out your pizza joint, but yeah, I’d say that does relate to one of my hobbies, which is eating, which is just literally-
Vincent Pietrafesa: I like it too.
Todd Kaplan: … I love food. Not the fancy foodie way. I can talk to you for hours about cinnamon toast crunch and fruity pebbles and which kind of milk you like to drink after the stuff comes on. I can go nuts on all that, but I’d say for real hobbies, I would say though, I play tennis, I’m an avid tennis player. I grew up playing competitive tennis in Southern California. Big movie buff but more like stupid Judd Apatow type style movies.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh yeah.
Todd Kaplan: Not like anything serious. I love sports, obviously big NBA fan, Lakers obviously. I’ve started getting into NFTs a little bit as we’ve started to down that journey with Pepsi. And I’m kind of getting into that space. And I love always just exploring kind of new things and learning and trying out new stuff. So, this whole metaverse and NFTs has been a really interesting area for me to kind of dive into as well.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s awesome. Ajay is an avid tennis player too. He was the over four, what’s the 40’s is the competitive level, it’s called the 45’s, the 40’s?
Ajay Gupta: Wow. You’re getting your terms right, Vincent.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly.
Todd Kaplan: So, I used to be years ago was in a men’s like 50 League in San Francisco and then I’ve come back to east, and I used to be very good and now I’m just very out of shape and very old and very not good, but I enjoy it. No, I can still play, but I haven’t played as consistently as you Ajay and I would love to get back into regular rhythm. As I have kids and work and everything in between, it’s been hard to find that.
Ajay Gupta: It sounds like we have found our weekend tournament ringers, Todd.
Todd Kaplan: That’s it, but it’s one of those things and it’s funny. And I heard you at the beginning talking about your injuries, you try to get back out there and okay. And like, so finally. I remember a couple years ago, I’m like, ” I’m going to do it. I’m going to get back. I’m starting to play a couple times a week,” and then have some stupid injury and like, ” Okay, now I’m just the old man with the excuse here.” But either way, I still enjoy it. And at some point, I’ll have to evolve and get into doubles and not move and play the old man tennis, but I’m not that old yet. So, we’ll see.
Ajay Gupta: Well, you’ll be hearing from me. We’re always looking for weekend ringers for the big tournament.
Todd Kaplan: Let me know. I’m in. Down to play.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Go down to San Antonio. Ajay is in San Antonio there.
Todd Kaplan: Let’s go.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And Todd, what was that book you mentioned again? Because our listeners, the thing they asked about was like, well, book recommendation. You said that book from your former CEO. Mentioned that one more time?
Todd Kaplan: Oh, that was a book, yeah, that’s called the Other Guy Blinked by Roger Enrico, which just tells the product Pepsi story and all of that stuff. But as far as books, there’s a, I mean, I’m a big, also I love all the business kind of books. And one of the classics is Good to Great, is obviously a great book. I don’t know if you know that one. But it’s got some really good nuggets and advice. The other one that I think is, it’s more of a functional book rather than an inspirational book, but I would say for anybody who’s changing jobs or starting a new role or doing anything, I think it’s called The First 90 Days. Literally, that’s the name of the book. And it just talks about like, ” Hey, you’re coming into a new thing, how should you start?” As you’re thinking through getting, it’s always a good, just when you dust off, whenever you try new role, you’re like, ” Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe I should set up some meetings. It just helps you think through some of that stuff. But I mean, yeah, I can go for days on, I obviously have a lot of books in my shelf behind me here too and stuff. Eating the Big Fish is another good one, I would say as well as you think about the challenge your mindset, and thinking about doing things differently and how to rethink your role as a brand, as a challenger, is a really good one too.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That’s awesome. No, we appreciate your time, Todd. That has been very informative. Again, your passion shines through, I know the listeners will get that from you as well. Thank you so much for joining us. That is the Vice President, Head of Marketing for Pepsi, Todd Kaplan. I’m Vincent Pietrafesa, that’s Ajay Gupta. This has been another amazing episode of Stirista’s, the Marketing Stir. Thank you for listening. And we’ll talk soon.
Vin: Thanks for listening to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you’re interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at email@example.com. And thanks for listening.