Psycho-match—Game: Pepsi

Talk about brilliant psychology. On my way out to a meeting at Progressive to study web site usability issues, I had to take a break and watch one of my favorite shows for a few minutes. And lo and behold, a commercial came on that blew my marketer’s mind.

Diet Pepsi. Okay, we always think of Pepsi as the “we try harder” brand, right? I think I remember reading somewhere once that the diet version of Pepsi actually outsells the diet version of Coke. But never mind. That’s not what this is about.

This is about focusing all your power to study the human condition–as it relates to foibles in perception, etc.–and applying it to your marketing. First, they show a guy eating a sandwich while he’s doing his job–monitoring a robot crawling on the surface of another planet. He’s absorbed. Then he takes a swig of Diet Pepsi and hesitates, yeah, he’s clearly thinking, this is really good. He then takes a really long pull, leaning back in his chair as he does so.

When he returns to upright, the robot on his monitor has been “stripped” and put up on concrete blocks, and off in the distance you see little guys with high-pitched voices running off. The implication of course is Diet Pepsi is so good, you can become irresponsible from the pleasure of it (sound suspiciously like a sex-based ad?).

Well, okay, that’s good. But the end is the part that shot my brain into overdrive. Blah, blah, they’re saying stuff about Diet Pepsi–who cares? we’ve just seen the guy miss such an important part of his job that he’s a sure thing for the unemployment line in most companies–and on the screen flashes the Diet Pepsi logo.

Then suddenly, under the logo, onto the screen flashes the tagline–the new tagline–for Diet Pepsi.

“It’s the diet cola.”

Let us pause to catch our breath…

Because keep in mind, the war over supremacy rages around the world in hundreds of countries between Coke and Pepsi. And now Pepsi has glommed onto a human foible–particularly susceptible to the vagaries of translation into other languages–and taken possession of it.

When you ask for a Diet Coke nowadays and the establishment only carries Pepsi, they always say, “Pepsi okay?” Most people–not everyone, please don’t get upset, you loyal fans of one or the other–say yeah, sure.

Now as restaurants and fast food joints across the globe contract to distribute a diet cola, if they know that diet cola is a household word, they will be much more inclined to take the one that’s known by that name.

So in the future–unless Coke jumps on this immediately and fights–when you ask for a diet cola anywhere in the world, guess what you’ll be likely to get?

Whew. Wonder how much the agency got paid for that one?

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