Pepsi withdRAW Pepsi RAW

In the news this week was the withdRAWl of Pepsi Raw. Now, no-one in marketing has a 100% hit rate in predicting what's going to be a hit or miss… but this was never going to work. I blogged back at the end of 2007 that Pepsi's "all natural cola" was "Like seeing your parents naked on a nudist beach. Natural. But just wrong."

What can we learn from this example of brand extension?

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1. Remember what made you famous

Pepsi is famous for being a more youthful and slightly rebellious cola. It has done well with Pepsi Max, which is low calorie cola for guys with more attitude and humour than Coke. Pepsi Raw went against this brand character, trying to look like a healthy, natural drink.

This sort of dodgy extension means a brand looses on two counts. The people you are trying to attract don't find the new offer credible. And the people who use your brand now get confused about who the hell you are.

2. No amount of sizzle can save a dodgy sausage

Pepsi Raw had its fair share of modern marketing. Marketing reports that last year the brand used "a Twitter tag on cans and asked consumers to log-on to the microblogging website to share their thoughts on the soda in 140 characters or less." But the problem is that no amount of emotional "sizzle" and fancy marketing can make up for a dodgy product "sausage".

3. When brand stretch is too far…

Pepsi correctly identified a consumer need for healthier, more natural soft drinks. However, the best way to respond to this need was not with a Pepsi Cola extension, as the brand stretch was too far. They made a great move in buying Tropicana, which partly met the need for healthier drinks. But they are still missing a healthier, refreshing soft drink for adults. An earlier post covered Coke's launch of new brand called Cascal in the USA to meet this need, and it will be interesting to see how it does.

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Pepsi need to create a new brand. Or, as is more likely I think, buy a brand such as Firefly.

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In conclusion, when stretching a brand your chances of success are much better if you build on and leverage a strength, rather than trying to be something you're not.