Traditionally, Pepsi has been a challenger in the carbonated soft drinks category in India — and faces stiff competition from other cola brands (Coke and Thums Up). This category is mostly consumed by youth, a demographic which constitutes half of India's 1.3 billion population.
With a clear objective of increasing penetration, Pepsi needed to up its game by tapping potential audiences; but the sudden and draconian COVID- 19 lockdown in India created a seismic shift in the way brands connected with consumers. It was an unprecedented challenge for Pepsi, a brand that has driven counter-cultural trends; it had to offer a relevant point of view without losing its trendsetting appeal. Staying silent was simply not an option.
Pepsi needed a point of view that was meaningful in the context of COVID-19 and that remained truly Pepsi, while achieving objectives that included gaining market share in the cola category and increasing KPI scores.
Objective and Context:
The cola category in India is based on attitudinal differentiation. Pepsi as a brand spent $7.2 million in comparison to Coke ($12.13 million) and Thums Up ($9.31 million) in 2019 to move the attitudinal momentum, associating itself with "swag." Pepsi extended its Swag Se Solo campaign in a contextual way during this pandemic by revolutionizing younger generations to practice "The New Normal."
With the "Salaam Namaste" campaign, Pepsi wanted to empower people between the ages of 15 and 30 who are always seeking an opportunity or platform on which to share their opinion and talent. In this extended lockdown period, the youth started to express themselves virtually like never before. Swag is an expression of their identity, so Pepsi wanted to leverage this in a relevant way that could push social change. Guiding insights included the facts that:
Pepsi saw an opportunity to make social distancing more fun in a way that was truly on brand by infusing some "swag" into it. Pepsi leveraged Salaam Namaste, an already existing ritual of social distancing in India, and created a unique mashup by repurposing Pepsi's existing hit track "Swag Se Solo" with a message that encouraged the practice social distancing, ending it with the hook of "Swag Se Solo."
The company also created a Pepsi Swag Se Solo branded lens on TikTok. As a result of this, more than 300,000 videos were created in only three days, with celebrities across film, theater, music, and sports joining the conversation.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Pepsi's campaign, which was mobile-driven, successfully created a unique mashup by repurposing Pepsi's existing hit track "Swag Se Solo" with a call to practice social distancing. A Pepsi Swag Se Solo branded lens on TikTok was created to make the song come alive on the platform. Pepsi collaborated with a content partner which ensured maximum reach and engagement by recruiting relevant and highly influential content creators on TikTok who practiced the swag way of social distancing.
Salman Khan kickstarted the campaign with Bollywood celebritiess like Jacqueline Fernandez, Remo D'souza, and Riteish Deshmukh, who joined in presenting their unique way to spread the message of social distancing. Cricket stars like David Warner, Yuzvendra Chahal, and AB D'Villiers participated as well, along with Shehnaz of Bigg Boss fame and her counterpart, Siddharth Shukla.
During the lockdown, when almost all other businesses in the country underwent declines, online presence across social and digital overall grew for Pepsi. The time spent on social media by younger generations increased by 48 percent and TikTok experienced a 38 percent increase in audience usage during the outbreak and the extended lockdown. Pepsi successfully engaged with its core target audience by introducing them to #SwagStepChallenge and #SwagSeSolo challenges on TikTok. Further, Pepsi decided to reach its audience across platforms and planned the Salaam Namaste campaign on mobile exclusively to leverage its target's online social behavior.
Pepsi became the No.1 international cola in India based on consumer equity. Brand KPI scores increased by 2 points (17 points in Q2 2019 to 19 points in Q1 2020), while youth favorability increased by 10 points (51 points in Q2 2019 to 61 points in Q1 2020) and taste increased by 10 points (49 points in Q2 2019 to 59 points in Q1 2020).
On TikTok, Pepsi achieved a total of 12 billion views in six days and one billion likes on the hashtag during the campaign. The total conversation around the branded videos crossed two million in six days and Salman Khan's videos were shared more than 120,000 times. More than 50 publications including TV, print, digital, and regional ones covered stories of the challenge.