Who Cares More, Coke or Pepsi?

Image by Orin Zebest

Much has been said about Pepsi’s falling market share and its social media driven Refresh cause marketing effort. Extremists have dubbed Pepsi Refresh as the iconic symbol of failure for social media as a marketing mechanism. Like many conversations about social media, this view is too simplistic. It fails to acknowledge several key issues, including product weaknesses, the fact that PR and advertising were well integrated into the effort, and the debatable use of cause marketing as the primary thrust behind Refresh. Meanwhile primary competitor Coca Cola continues to widen the gap with its marketing and quieter CSR initiatives.

The lack of a tangible theory of change, the over-focus on PR 2.0 participation metrics, and generally a failure to report the results of its community investments, lead one to question the authenticity of Pepsi Refresh. The market has been repeatedly told about the great marketing successes, and in context, there’s a notable under-emphasis on the social good results from Pepsi. On the cause side, nonprofits who have won grants have grumbled about the lack of post-award support from Pepsi.

Because Pepsi Refresh did not have a tangible theory of change, a measurable approach towards social good, one can conclude that these outcomes are natural. They also show a lack of understanding about corporate social responsibility, authenticity and social media. In short, now that the fanfare is over, what good did the company achieve, and how do people feel about their participation in the campaign since the primary reported result is that they posted about Pepsi Refresh?

Social good campaigns only work when people feel the company genuinely cares, and when social media is used that participants feel their contributions have had a societal impact. Pepsi has not successfully communicated either outcome. On the contrary, Pepsi’s approach to reporting Refresh results have been short sighted and undermined some of the good will built with community investments.

In fact, when closely examining Refresh’s “social good” and market leader Coca-Cola’s CSR efforts, one cannot help but question which soda company really cares more? Coke has taken incredible strides in water stewardship, and while it doesn’t market this activity, it actively communicates its strategy to resolve an issue that its products directly impact. It works with environmental partners, and reports back on lessons learned.

Let’s be clear, from a holistic standpoint, Coke’s CSR efforts are not ideal and leave a lot to be desired. They don’t even use many of these efforts to promote themselves, but at least the company works towards tangible end goals. There’s an authenticity to Coke’s efforts that one does not get from Refresh.

In considering corporate social good it seems that quiet authenticity is more effective than fanfare in the long term. The hare loses to the tortoise. The primary reason why is not the method, but the intent and purpose of waging social good. Who do you think cares more, Coke or Pepsi?

Memo to Crowdsourcing: Grow Up

by GeniusRocket President Peter LaMotte

At some point, every teenage boy looks around his bedroom and realizes it’s time to grow up. The little league trophies. The Star Wars sheets. The Elle McPherson poster (okay, maybe those last two can stay). But anything that’s going to embarrass you when you bring your college girlfriend home has got to go. You don’t need anyone to tell you—you just wake up one day and know it’s time to move forward.

Just like you wish your Little League career had, in just a few years, the term crowdsourcing has lurched out of obscurity to become a major part of the world we live in, especially within the marketing lexicon.

Most marketers have either first hand experience with crowdsourcing, or at a minimum have heard the term and know they should learn more. But crowdsourcing has evolved beyond just crowdsourcing for video and graphic design to include complex research, micro-financing and vast ideation. And while the teenage kid may not know what crowdsourcing is; he knows as he watches the Super Bowl each year, that a few of those ads are lot funnier than the others. He also doesn’t realize, that he’s witnessing a powerful new marketing trend. Because crowdsourcing may actually be most well known through the Doritos and Pepsi contests that premier each year during the Super Bowl.

First in 2007, Doritos was ahead of the crowd, no pun intended, when they turned to the masses to source what they hoped would be an entertaining commercial. In using the Super Bowl as the platform to launch these videos, Doritos, along with their agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, took a considerable risk. Less than one year earlier, Chevrolet experienced a PR nightmare when it used a crowdsourcing contest to mash up Chevy Tahoe ads resulting in less-than-brand-loving tag lines such as “It’s Global Warming Time” and spots that touted the killing power of a large SUV. Yet, surprisingly, Doritos’s results were not only brand-friendly, catching and entertaining but generated endless buzz about Doritos and the power of creative crowdsourcing.

After taking one Super Bowl off from sourcing commercials, and turned to discovering unknown musicians through a crowdsourcing campaign, Doritos and its parent company Pepsi, came back to crowdsourcing for the 2009 Super Bowl and has stayed with the user-generated content approach each year since.

There is no question that they have delivered highly entertaining ads across the years by turning to the crowdsourced approach. The ads have consistently proven that crowdsourcing can produce great viral content and guaranteed viewership.

Now fast forward to 2011 and Doritos’s fourth trip to the crowdsourcing well, and one thing is clear, physical and childish humor seems to be content that rises to the top. In every year that Doritos has turned to crowdsourcing (including this year where sister brand Pepsi Max joined the competition) the majority of the crowdsourced ads selected for the Super Bowl are ones based upon physical comedy and sexual innuendo.

This is not to suggest that these aren’t effective ads. Especially for teenage boys. They continue to score very well on the USA Today Ad Meter. But the ads make a convincing argument that crowdsourcing needs to grow up and be less about men being hit in the groin.

Given the right incentive or a well-constructed crowdsourcing model, there is no reason why this year’s hugely popular Volkswagen Darth Vader spot couldn’t have been crowdsourced. Even Chrysler spot about Detroit could have been created (without the Eminem’s appearance of course) through crowdsourcing. Neither ad needed multimillion-dollar special effects, or multi-location scouting. It simply needs a big idea and talented production team.

This isn’t to say that these quality ads aren’t being generated already through video crowdsourcing sites, but the lessons brands need to learning from Doritos’s success aren’t about the power of crowdsourcing. Time and time again, when major brands turn to crowdsourcing for ads, they often set up creative briefs asking for sophomoric story lines.

You can generate just as much buzz and online discussion with an emotionally powerful crowdsourced video as you would with any cheap laugh. Brand managers and agencies need to trust in the production companies and freelancers of the world to create content that can bring you to tears from sentimental emotion just as easily as getting hit in the crotch can solicit a laugh.

Peter LaMotte (@peterlamotte) is President of GeniusRocket, a Curated Crowdsourcing company. The Curated Crowdsourcing model relies upon a vetted community of experienced and professional production companies, writers, and advertising veterans to deliver high quality commercial video content at a fraction of the cost of traditional means. Peter previously worked at Corporate Executive Board, IBM, and Apple. He holds BA in International Business from Rhodes College, and MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Questions & Answers on Cause Marketing via Social Media


Two weeks ago Network for Good‘s Kate Olsen and I hosted a U-Stream chat to field questions and answer on our eGuide about Cause Marketing via Social Media. Well, we had some video broadcast issues with U-Stream, but managed to capture several questions via chat. Here are those questions and our answers.

If anyone has additional questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section. We’d love to continue the conversation.

Q1. How can nonprofits promote corporate partners’ investments (as part of their CSR programs), in ways that add value to corporations and also resonate with stakeholders?

There needs to be a clear value proposition that works for all parties. That means it takes more than simply offering a $5 donation with every purchase, although, in the end, that may make sense. Let’s look at two examples:

1) KFC and Komen came under fire this year for pink buckets of fried chicken. The fatty food and breast cancer combo did not resonate well for all of its stakeholders. What would have worked (may be not as well for sales) a little better for all parties is pink buckets of grilled chicken. The company gets the responsibility and marketing points, Komen better serves its mission, and non KFC customers may be more inclined to visit a KFC fast food restaurant.

2) Staples and DonorsChoose offers a great cause shopping model. Buying at Staples equals an investment in education, and one the customer chooses. Clearly a win for DonorsChoose and the customer, but also Staples. Why? Because Staples is an office products company. Most of the workforce that needs its products has a college education. Win, win, win.

Q2. What cutting-edge, creative types of promotion would make a nonprofit a leader in this arena?

Geez, that’s a tough question. Promotion and leadership seem opposed at times online. While you can certainly claim leadership, it’s really about serving online stakeholders with valuable content and activities for cause purposes. When you are successful at that, the community often promotes your effort faster than you would. The types of promotion – blogging, social network participation, crowdsourcing – really are a means to the end. Without the core understanding and service to the community, the cause marketing will fall on deaf ears.

So Pepsi’s Refresh, while annoying at times with its constant retweeting and vote for me asks (Geoff’s opinion), succeeds because the participants care enough to submit proposals and get the ideas promoted, and hopefully voted on… Thus promoting Pepsi. Even better for Pepsi is when voters also promote their favorite projects. But if leadership was contingent on Pepsi’s promotion solely, Refresh would not have been a success. It would have been a bad ad campaign.

Q3: What is cause marketing? How do you define it?

At its best, cause marketing is a subset of corporate social responsibility. CSR seeks to benefit a company’s community of interest with philanthropic acts, often in the spirit of the company’s natural interests. So for example, an auto manufacturer would have a natural interest in fostering better education for those inclined in core engineering studies such as math and science, or in supporting science that creates better hybrid vehicles that reduce gas emissions.

Cause marketing ties CSR with marketing by demonstrating to and even involving a customer or stakeholder base in the philanthropic activity. This can be marketing for a variety of reasons. Whether its branding, reputation, or direct sales.

Consider the Dow Live Earth Run for Water. Clearly Dow was trying to reinvest in its the community and reverse some of the past negative effects pollution has created on its brand. While the community didn’t react in an overwhelming positive to Dow’s efforts, it was a beginning first step to better its image, a clear marketing effort with a CSR bend to it.

Q4. What should be the nature of the relationship between companies and nonprofits?

In our opinion, it should be a well reviewed business deal for both organizations. A company clearly has some sort of marketing benefit it would like to achieve. And it is willing to pay for it.

But the nonprofit also has a stake in the game. It needs to decide whether the dollars will make the right impact on its programs and/or mission. It, too, will benefit from branding, but if the marketing crosses a line and conflicts with the larger organizational goals then the nonprofit should make a strategic decision to negotiate or say no.

In two prior examples, KFC and Dow, the nonprofits and causes involved suffered negative brand hits for participating in their respective efforts. Now, the money may have outweighed the negative consequences, but these are good examples of nonprofits that may have negotiated, and possibly could have done more to protect their brands.

Q5. How many cause marketing partners is ideal?

There’s no real limit, but there is such a thing as over exposure. Another question with multiple partners is while marketing may happen, is change occurring? Or are there so many chefs in the kitchen that the food is getting burned?

Again, this ties back to the nonprofit and organizational missions and programs. Does the cause marketing achieve these goals, or is it just energy invested in branding that doesn’t help the larger effort? This should be the ultimate barometer of a yes or no.

Q6. What are recommendations for achieving a good holiday social media campaign?

Holiday social media is critical to a cause’s effort. Forty percent of donations occur in the month of December, while 10 percent occur during the last three days of the year (source: Network for Good).

Allyson Kapin, editor of Care2’s Frogloop blog, suggests that the three most important elements of a holiday fundraising (or any) social media effort are 1) Building an effective email list, 2) building an effective landing page, and 3) storytelling, the heart of compelling people to participate online. The latter part is critical because if your cause is going to make eight or nine asks during the holiday season to cut through the clutter, you need to tell a great story.

Cause shopping may be a great win-win in these situations. Companies, too, are heavily reliant on end of year sales for profitability. So if a consumer can 1) purchase a gift while 2) making a donation, it can become easy. In many ways, this is the ask to the consumer. But without a compelling story, it’s just not going to work well.

An example of a cause shopping experience that achieves the four essentials of cause marketing (suitability, authenticity, transparency and selling point) is the Clinique “Happy Day” each year in December. Last year, Clinique worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters to create personalized holiday cards that embodied happiness during the season of giving. The cards were available to customers in store or online with a $30 purchase of Clinique products – a great tie-in to the cosmetic brand’s “Happy” product line. Clinique made a $350,000 donation to the charity and helped build awareness for the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and programs. This year, be on the lookout for a new twist to the “Happy Day” campaign on December 10th.

Some Truths About Crowdsourcing

Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) at the Nationals

In today’s online world, the term crowdsourcing gets bandied about quite a bit. It’s the most difficult and visible form of community-based social engagement. For companies and nonprofits alike it has become a nirvana-like state to attain.

Yet, much of today’s conversations deal with fleeting uses of “crowdsourcing,” such as asking questions of Twitter communities. There are also plenty of interesting articles about benefits and the possible impact of sustainable crowdsourcing (as well as the tools to do it) but I find that the pragmatic how-to experience is missing.

The issue with the resulting lack of information is that most folks have no idea how difficult sustained crowdsourcing can be. I’ve had a couple of turns at it myself with major projects, one I would call very successful, the other average. Both required a ton of work and management that afterwards made me feel contemporary thinking can use some more depth.


Just based on my own experiences, here are some lessons (some obvious) that you don’t see in contemporary discussions about crowdsourcing ideas, innovation and change:

1) The crowd has to care, and they have to be made into heroes. The latter part is well documented (rewarding active community members), but the prior isn’t. In my mind, crowdsourcing is the last stage of a well-thought out social media strategy (UNLESS you are having a contest with a notable purse as a reward).

The managing party must understand its subject matter AND the community’s inherent interest in that topic. The crowdsourced effort serves both parties. Otherwise you will crowdsource little to nothing. Or worse, you’ll be evangelizing to get people to participate.

2) While the crowd craves freedom, it desperately needs structure. People need to be told how to participate and the rules of engagement. These rules have to be clear, empowering of the crowd, and directive in their end result.

Believe me, I’ve tried it the other way, but your crowdsourcing effort needs to be well structured (See Beth Kanter’s discussion of Chase’s Community giving contest design). A recent crowdsourcing effort made me realize how much more simplified our process needed to get for the future.

3) Rules need to be enforced or adapted. Issues come all the time because people invariably do what they want, the rules be damned. The organization needs to either enforce them, or publicly change them and show why they are amending them. Then you have to be ready to deal with the haters.

For citizengulf, I threw out a day-time yoga event because it wondered too far away from the mission/purpose as well as the event style, and it competed with another event in the same city. No was the obvious answer. And as a result, I got plenty of email telling me I was an a-hole. So be it.

4) You’ll need to invest a lot of management resources. If you think social media is time consuming, try crowdsourcing. It involves grassroots customer service and handholding like you cannot imagine (I was amazed). You may publish a lot of information, but you need to be present for your community if you expect them to be present for you. Crowdsourcing innovation does not mean outsourcing human resources, just the innovation. And even then you may end up refining it like Cisco had to with its I-Prize innovation contest.

There are other issues, such as managing the idea market so that popularity doesn’t trump quality. Another is ensuring that while the crowd may want a result, that the business or nonprofit mission maintains its integrity.

I am not the biggest fan of Pepsi Refresh (I still struggle with understanding how this is impacting society and the incredible amount of Vote for Me #pepsirefresh spam it creates). That being said, I admire the hell out of Pepsi Refresh from a communicator’s perspective. It’s incredible that they can maintain interest, and handle the amount of issues that continually come up with their contest. From first hand conversations with their team, it is clear how hard they have worked, and continue to work to keep this contest going and to support their winners. The sustained energy is simply impressive.

The well discussed benefits of crowdsourcing are amazing, but going in with eyes wide open about the task at hand is critical. First hand experience and research about crowdsourcing are also helpful. It’s my intent to continue this conversation with best practices for causes from a tactical management standpoint via a by-lined article on Mashable. Stay tuned.

Program Design – Matching Grants vs. Voting Platforms


The discussion about entering contests as a strategic decision was one of the most interesting aspects of the analysis from the Case Foundation’s second America’s Giving Challenge (Full disclosure: Zoetica is performing this analysis). In particular, Students for a Free Tibet carefully vetted the contest opportunity using a series of guidelines to determine impact – positive and negative — on the 501c3. It should be noted that nonprofits see the increasing tax corporate funded contests have created on both the causes and their networks. This creates a programatic challenge for cause marketing design (image by jblyberg).

In essence, when considering how to interest customers and stakeholders, corporations need to invest more time into design. A crowdsourced voting platform may still have value, but now after several waves of contests, programs need to be designed so that more of a win-win occurs. A simple vote-a-thon for a purse is unlikely to create more than a marketing splash, and could invoke serious criticism.

One way to cricumnavigate this issue is to create a matching grants program that encourages more giving and/or activity. Matching grants provide incentive so that regardless of overall performance, votes and activity from consumers create reward. The customer or employee feels that their action mattered, the non-profit benefits, and the overall effect of the campaign is further engagement and loyalty.

Consider Intel’s Involved Program, a matching grant program seeking to motivate Intel employees globally to engage in outreach and volunteerism. In 2009, 38 percent of Intel employees donated 989,681 hours of service in 2009, and the Intel Foundation provided $6.8 million in matching grants to 4,500 schools and nonprofits.

Contests don’t necessarily need matching grants for them to achieve a win-win status. For example, the Sunlight Foundation’s recent Design for America contest wanted to inspire more visualization of open government data. Contest prizes were use to facilitate that, but arguably any design — win or lose — was an effort that helped achieve a theory of change towards better government. The contest did opt to judge by experts rather than voting.

Voting Contests

Voting contests without matching grants have additional weaknesses, too. If a contest is completely crowd driven, it risks becoming a popularity effort rewarding organizations for their ability to successfully galvanize their networks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the best organization for change will be selected. This has been the largest criticism of Pepsi Refresh to date.

Pepsi’s Bonin Bough has countered critics, “We’re betting on the American people (never a bad bet) to submit and vote on ideas that will really make a difference in their communities. That’s why we’re working with GOOD and Global Giving, and that’s why we’ve conducted extensive outreach with the nonprofit community: we want to make sure that the grants that Pepsi Refresh gives will go to ideas that can truly make a difference. ”

Vetting contest winners or even selecting nonprofits prior to contests allows a program to circumnavigate these criticims. However, in today’s modern era of social media selecting charities for the crowd requires a great deal of transparency. Chase found this out during its $5 million Community Giving Contest when it failed to publish a leaderboard, and reasons why several top vote-getters were not in the top 100. These charities were disqualified for undisclosed reasons.

Transparency into the decision making/vetting process is critical. The more open a cause marketing effort can be the better. When people invest a vote or a small donation or volunteer time, they feel they have invested and become a stakeholder in the contest. They want to see outcomes, and understand why they happened.

Further, the use of qualified third party experts can help with vetting charities, lend credibility, and circumnavigate criticism. It’s important to make their decisions open, too, and allow people to understand the criteria for selection in as public a manner as possible.

New Contests via Technology

New technology development is allowing for hybrid variations of contests. For example, the Humanity Calls/eBay tournament for environmental nonprofits, created a $50,000+ giving tournament with more than 30 of the 100 plus competitors walking aways as winners.

Another organization, X Prize works to create uniquely tailored contests to foster innovation and generate change to benefit humanity. Prize development typically takes 8-14 months for each potential competition, concluding with a final report with a plan of action for donors and category sponsors. The creative process includes a series of sessions between leading experts resulting in ideas that are presented to the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees and potential purse sponsors.

Currently, the foundation is offering up millions of dollars in prize money for the first teams to sequence 100 genomes in 10 days (the $10 million Archon X Prize); to send a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video, data and images back to Earth (the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize); and to produce green, production-ready cars capable of exceeding 100 miles per gallon or its energy equivalent (the $10 million Progressive Automotive X Prize).

It’s clear that contests will continue, whether that’s a matching grant program like Case’s America’s Giving Challenge to crowdsourced voting giving affairs and innovation drivers. The key for companies and their partners is executing on program design best practices to create the win-win. Those include going beyond marketing measurements to include transparency and smart reporting, clear benefits for a significant portion of participants (matching grants?), a measurable theory of change, as well as the use of subject matter experts.

Winning Online Competitions: A Coalition of the Giving


Zoetica has decided not to counsel potential clients on how to win contests like Pepsi Refresh, but many of you are asking for tips. That’s why when the opportunity came up to publish this guest post by Dan Morrison, CEO of Citizen Effect, I said yes. Hopefully, some folks will find it useful.

Philanthropy competitions are the new fad and mode for giving away millions of dollars to innovative organizations trying to save the world. Last year the Chase Giving Challenge gave away $5 million to 100 nonprofits and this year Pepsi allocated $20 million of its Super Bowl ad budget to launch its Pepsi Refresh Project that is giving away a total of $1.2 million a month to innovative ideas that will save the world.

While most of you have never heard of Scott Beale and Atlas Corp. you need to for two reasons. Atlas Corp is creating a new spin on the Peace Corp that will benefit your organization, and Scott is kicking your butts in these online giving competitions.

In the last 2 years, Scott and Atlas Corp have won $325,000 from online competitions, including $125,000 from the Chase Giving Challenge. And he just did it again by winning one of the ten $50,000 prizes from the Pepsi Refresh Project. This is impressive. But it is borderline unbelievable when you consider Atlas Corp’s 2009 budget was $400.000, they only have 1,700 friends on Facebook, 1,215 followers on Twitter, and an email list of about 12,000 people.

So how did they do it? Scott’s plan to win the Pepsi contest was ingenious and will likely have Chase, Pepsi and other online contests rethinking their rules in the future. Introducing the “Coalition of the Giving.”

The recipe for forming the Coalition of the Giving is simple: part good-hearted collaboration, part reality-TV show Survivor, and part persistence (or spam, depending on your threshold for receiving emails, Facebook updates and Tweets).

The Pepsi Refresh Project included hundreds of ideas from all over the country and Scott knew he would need more than Atlas Corp supporters to win. So how could Scott get people to vote for Atlas Corp that had never heard of them before, much less care about their mission?

Easy, ask another organization competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project to market Atlas Corp to their supporters. This was possible because every voter was given ten votes a day, but each voter could only vote once for a specific organization. That left nine useless votes… unless you could form a coalition and trade votes in a “I’ll vote for you if you vote for me” arrangement.

Scott found six other organizations competing in the contest (two vying for $50K, three for $25K, and one for $250K) and told them that every time he asked someone to vote for Atlas Corp, he would also ask them to vote for everyone in the coalition, as long as they did the same. Here again, Pepsi’s rules worked in Scott’s favor because there were ten prizes of $50,000, so it was not a “winner take all” competition and open to benefiting a collaboration.

Pepsi does not share the number of votes, but let’ assume that 70% of Scott’s supporters still only vote for Atlas Corp. That means that 30% of his supporters will vote for other coalition members. Thirty percent does not seem like a lot but multiply that by six and consider that everyone can vote every day. If Atlas Corp is able to pick up ten voters that vote every day through the coalition, that is 280 votes over the course of the February contest. That may not allow someone to go from worst to first, but it is highly likely that it can move you from a contender to a winner.

The results tell the tale. Six of the seven coalition partners won, that is a combined $225,000 for the coalition.

The strategy was ingenious in part because it was selfish as much it was selfless. Rather than just a “vote for me” play, Atlas Corp adopted a “vote for me and consider these other guys,” play. The better the coalition members did in the standings, the stronger the incentive was to continue with the plan and not defect because if they did, they would be dropped from the coalition and loose all those potential votes.

I am not sure voting contests are the most efficient way to allocate millions of dollars for innovative ideas since they reward innovative voter mobilization strategies rather than innovative projects. But at least in the case of Atlas Corp, both were rewarded, and we all learned a lesson that sometimes collaboration is better than competition. Thank you Scott and best of luck in the next competition, we will be watching.

For more information on Atlas Corp, email Scott Beale at scott@atlascorps.org and learn more about Atlas Corps at www.atlascorps.org. For more information on the author, email Dan Morrison, CEO and Founder of www.CitizenEffect.org, at dan.morrison@CitizenEffect.org.