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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

ADdicted: The Brilliance of Pep's Place

When you visit a restaurant, chances are pretty good you're there first and foremost because you're looking for something to eat. You might get a drink with your meal, but you're likely there for the food first; the beverage is a compliment at best... perhaps even an afterthought.

But... what if it wasn't? What if you thought about the beverage first?

That's Pepsi's latest creative idea: Pep's Place is a restaurant where you choose your flavour of Pepsi first and then order the food that best compliments the taste of your chosen drink.

I decided to visit the website and try it out for myself. I selected Pepsi Cherry Zero, and the website suggested the perfect pairing would be a slow-smoked chopped pork sandwich... which actually looked delicious. And if I wanted to order, I could click the "Order Now with our Pep's Place Partner" button, enter my address, and have the meal combo delivered!

As a practical idea, Pep's Place probably wouldn't ever work.

For one thing, Pepsi has already tried owning restaurants before, and it didn't end well: other quick-service restaurants began refusing to carry Pepsi beverages as soon as they realized doing so would mean indirectly supporting their competitors, and Pepsi gave up a tremendous share of the foodservice market to Coca-Cola as a result.

And for another, most of us don't pick our food according to what beverage we want... we do it the other way around.

But creatively, I love this idea, for three reasons.

1. It's driving business for Pepsi's partners. Despite the image shown above of the Pep's Place Restaurant sign, there doesn't seem to be any physical locations that have been established; as per the press release, "Pep's Place opens today in select locations around the country for delivery only available through and major food aggregators (Uber Eats, Door Dash and Grub Hub)." That means that this entire initiative, somewhat ironically, is designed to generate incremental food sales for QSR partners who can use it after a devastating year of pandemic-driven closures. Sure, they'll sell more beverages too... but the revenue they'll earn from this initiative will likely be worth far less than the goodwill they'll generate from their business partners.

2. It appears to be a fairly efficient spend. Pepsi did put together a few ads to support the "food is better with Pepsi" idea (see below), but the majority of the spend appears to be the Pep's Place Website itself, which likely didn't cost a lot to put together. Efficient plus effective is a great formula when it comes to marketing spend, and while the effectiveness of this promotion has yet to be determined, it's nice that one-half of the equation already appears to be satisfied.

3. It reinforces the notion that a great beverage can enhance a meal. You may already like to pair certain foods with certain beverages, steak and red wine (or beer, depending on the setting), or seafood with white wine, perhaps. Putting soft drinks before the menu choices effectively reminds us not to forget about soft drinks when thinking about our meals... and that's certainly a win for Pepsi.

Perhaps my one issue with this campaign comes from the fact that the commercials, while funny and effective in reinforcing the idea that food is better with Pepsi, don't actually do anything to support the Pep's Place idea: they feel like part of a different campaign.

Admittedly, I laughed out loud at both ads, but I'd have preferred to see a better-integrated campaign, with the beverage giant double-down on the restaurant theme and showing us various situations where people are offered Pepsi first and then given food suggestions to pair with their beverage choice. Instead, these commercials seem to serve the function of "hedging their bets" in case the Pep's Place idea didn't resonate, which I think was a missed opportunity to really "sweat the idea" and make it work as hard as it possibly could.

Still, this campaign is a good example of what can happen when you start with a great insight (i.e. "food tastes better when you enjoy it with a great beverage"), come up with a great creative idea, and consider how all key stakeholders could benefit from the execution.

I don't know if this will drive food and beverage sales -- time will tell -- but it was certainly an A+ effort worthy of a big tip.


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