Pepsi Puts A Pop Culture “Cheat Sheet” At The Heart Of Its New Campaign

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Pepsi is launching a big rebranding campaign today, and the company says social media is going to play a crucial role. Specifically, PepsiCo Global Head of Digital Shiv Singh tells me that the biggest online piece of the campaign is a “social media cheat sheet” called the #NOW board — it has, in fact, taken over the Pepsi website.

The board is built on top of Pulse, the social media visualization platform that Pepsi launched last fall. Looking at the RSS feeds from across the Web, as well as the firehose of wants being shared through Twitter and bit.ly (with help from startups SocialFlow and NewsCred), Singh says the #NOW board presents the pop culture stories that are hottest in social media at any given moment, presented in easily-digestible form.

Beyond serving as a news aggregator, Singh says the site will include other features, like the ability for celebrities to pose challenges to their fans, and exclusive deals courtesy of sites like Thrillist. And naturally, the content can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

That all sounds fun, but what does that have to do with a food and beverage company? Well, the theme of the campaign is “Live for Now,” and it tries to reconnect the Pepsi brand with, as Singh puts it, “the heart of pop culture.” He argues that “the more deeply integrated” Pepsi is with broader pop culture trends, the better the company does.

My other question: Are people actually going to return to a Pepsi-branded site as a source of news? I mean, any news website is probably going to have advertising and sponsorships, and sure, we’re not probably not talking about hard-hitting journalism here, but it still feels a little weird to treat a Pepsi-owned site as a “real” news aggregator. Singh counters:

In the last few years we’ve seen people in general care less about the source of an experience or who’s creating the content, and more about the experience itself. People care less whether it’s a TV network that’s creating a really funny piece of video or whether a brand is.

The argument carries some weight, when you think about how ads like the Old Spice guy have become popular viral content. So is this advertising? Is it content? It’s a little bit of both, and it sounds like that’s what Pepsi wants.