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August 23, 2006



A real cool story below:
The Pepsi Story: Think Big Baby!
There is no bigger market than China. When Richard Lee, former vice president of Pepsi China, was given the task of increasing the famous cola drink’s presence in the world’s most populous nation, he knew he needed to go big. For Lee, who is now Pepsi International’s vice president of colas, this involved mapping out a 10-year branding strategy which has seen the company’s market share more than double in China. A truly cool story, if you ask me. See and judge for yourself though…

Lee’s strategy included five key phases. From 1997 to 1998, the primary task was to raise awareness about Pepsi. From 1999 to 2000, the goal was to enhance its global stature. Phase three, from 2001 to 2004, involved creating one on one interaction between Pepsi and its core consumers. while from 2004 onwards the company has dedicated its branding activities to “Beyond the 3D experience”. While the strategy involved numerous campaigns and initiatives, the company’s core values remained the same.

Pepsi runs numerous branding campaigns around the word. Each aims to penetrate the everyday life of consumers. Despite a huge diversity in marketing tools and forms, all campaigns follow the 7E Principles. These guiding pillars are: emotional power, entertainment value, brand evangelism, omnipotent exposure, collaborative engagement, execution excellence and investment effectiveness.

If you want to read the whole Pepsi story, here’s the link… Let me know what you think!

Mike Peter Reed

Cool just means standing out from the crowd a little, not always following the herd.

Branding means burning your initials on a cows ass so they don't stand out from the crowd and are part of the herd.

Contrived cool today is tomorrow's cheese.

Cool is just ... cool. No matter where it comes from or whose logo is stamped on it.

Commodity is not cool, unless it's somehow Warhol cool. Dramatise your differentiating idea and you'll look a lot cooler. Or evil. It's a thin line.

Good luck, conglomerates!


Have you seen the electronic comic books? Cool reminds me of the interactive books with sounds, touch. Could we have interactive books with scent?

Matt Devlin

I have a bit of professional insight into the HP FingerSkilz campaign. I work in one of HP's ad agency's, though I wasn't involved with FingerSkilz. I think that you've lumped it unfairly with your other examples.

There's an assumption that because HP made a viral they were trying to be 'cool' - as if there aren't other brand attributes that are worth being associated with.

I'm not at all sure that being 'cool' was the objective of FingerSkilz. I suspect it was much more about trying something new, entertaining and differentiating.

It's like the brand 'exercise' where you ask yourself what role your brand would play at a party. I agree that Apple would be the popular kid, but it's worth keeping in mind that even in high school not everyone liked the popular kids. Why shouldn't a brand point out the things that make it nice, entertaining, helpful or friendly?

You also imply that HP isn't significantly different from Dell and until it is it shouldn't try to use advertising to say it is. I'd say that the opposite is true - HP is a substantially different organisation and advertising is probably the best way to illustrate that.

Mark True

It points out again the value in LIVING the brand rather than just ADVERTISING the brand. If you ARE cool, you don't have to TELL people you're cool.

Replace "cool" with "fast", "personal", "friendly", "sincere", "cutting-edge", "high-tech", "old-fashioned" or any other desirable characteristic and the same holds true.

It's brand ownership, not advertising that makes the difference.


Regarding the comment of VasperTG, is not there a process of natural selection in blogosphere, that eliminates the opportunistic elements. Ideas good enough are difficult to imitate. Any attempt at it will be like making fool of oneself.

vaspers the grate

This reminds me more of decaying corpses trying to resurrect, as they slip down to the brink of oblivion.

We must be sure to keep the heat on these pseudo blog bummers. We must make it extremely difficult for marketing intrusions into the blogosphere to opportunistically try to "cash in" on our peer to peer trust network.


I don't really think that "cool" has anything to do with being that unique from thers. After all, look at all the people who buy from Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch and all the girls who have sidebangs. It's being able to pull it off that makes you cool, I think. Also, if someone is cool, a lot of the time they have money. They have the latest phone, camera, hottest clothes, etc. You get my point right?


I think most of us on the pretext of being 'cool' begin to act as hypocrites.

I strongly believe in 'instant brands' and instant brand building with virals, and other guerilla and underground marketing activities.

However, what companies like HP et al don't understand is that a lot many times the perceptions engrained over a period of say a decade are hard to change in one flat stroke.

Virals are 'cool' and entertaining, but how they could dynamically and rapidly change HP's perceptions in my mind?

Customer experience, retail experience and even to the smallest newspaper insert will still talk the same 'tonality' as earlier!

Correct me if I am wrong!


Diary of an Ad Man

It's hard to dress up a pig. Hate to say it, but if the brand experience is bad, than you get a bad a brand, a la MickieD's, HP, etc.

Brian Fidler

I disagree with the author in that if you currently have a "stodgy/conservative/whatever" brand that in order to resonate with a cooler/hipper audience you need to start from scratch. Apple is a good example of taking a brand that had been cool, became ordinary, and reinvented itself to be cool again.

In the 90's they had succumbed to beige box syndrome and were creating computers that had a very limited market share and weren't differentiated in product design. When Steve Jobs rejoined the company, he brought a vision that incorporated differentiated products and entirely new product categories.

I think that often, one single vision, or recognition of vision (was it Steve Jobs, or did Jobs just recognize the best of Jonathan Ivy's designs?) can totally remake a brand/company/anything.


Just noted one of your past posts in my blog - the one on "blog depression". I remember reading it a year ago and it jumped out as I was writing a post for my blog today.



Not every company can be all these things. And I don't believe it's necessary. "Original"? What exactly does that mean? Is Pepsi doomed because Coca-Cola is - by virtue of chronology - considered the "original"? No. There are many facets to originality. Is Nike "unique"? Not really. They make shoes just as cobblers have made for centuries and other companies make today.

The one thing that truly matters imo is being Authentic. No one likes a fake. It's smacks of deception and no one likes being deceived. It gets the blood going in a way that being unOriginal or unUnique don't.

So if a company is honest about their product and what it is they do, and in this way are both Authentic to and Respectful of their customers, then they don't need to be Original or Unique in today's market (after all, being Authentic could also be considered relatively Original and Unique in our increasingly fake world). It certainly helps, but at the core of this is a genuine dialogue with consumers. And this is where I think so many companies are having difficulty: for decades it's been a one-way discussion. Now that consumers have both so much choice and a medium which gives them a voice, it's screwing up the established order of how things are done.

In my opinion, companies just need to remember one thing: they owe their existence to their customers. They can't forget that. They can't let their arrogance - or a perception of arrogance - interrupt that dialogue. And that perception comes with trying to think you can pull the wool over people's eyes by being fake.

So don't try to be something you're not. It's deceptive. And that's the height of uncool whether it applies to a company or an individual.

Daniel P. Sims

I don't think the size or the age of the company matters. You don't determine if you are cool or not. It is out of your hands completely. Other people decide this for you. Didn't we work out this rule in high school?



"Sad, mad and bad". That's the only way you can describe the three miserable attempts to be cool that you highlight.

They are all trying too hard to do the wrong thing. They need to think and act obliquely.

The British economist John Kay describes the concept of "obliquity" in an article in the Financial Times. As he describes it, if you want to be happy, the worst approach is to simply try to be happy. As anyone who has ever suffered an emotional break-up will testify, it just doesn't work. The best approach is to do as many things as you can to lead a fulfilling life and happiness will probably follow as a side-effect. (See

If brands want to be cool, they should just get on and design brilliant products, that help customers achieve the outcomes they desire with ease and simplicity, and that don't cost the earth to buy and own. They should focus on what their products help customers to achieve, rather than on the narcissistic brand itself.

Coolness will have a better chance of arriving obliquely by doing all the right things and by doing them well, than by any faux attempt to pretent to look cool.

Graham Hill

Doug Baker

HP's is the sort of campaign that reinforces Seth Godin's view that more money placed in designing a product means that less money is needed by marketing to make it desirable. If you want something to be cool, make it cool, don't just sell it as cool.

Support of truly talented designers appears to me a good way to establish some 'cool' credibility. Take, for example, the limited edition Adicolor range from Adidas. A combination of renowned designers and a grass roots competition resulted in a clothes line that drew in people who usually avoid adidas (myself included). It further developed a particular aspect of their brand giving their fashion line a more cutting edge feel.

This campaign boasts autheticity, orginalness and uniqueness in its honest support of design and individuality.

Dan Creswell

It's amazing what big companies will try to make a bit more cash isn't it?

I think cool is one of those things that you can either attempt to convey using pure spin or you can indoctrinate it into your company.

When your focus is money and minimal effort/minimal change to make more money, spin is the obvious option.

What Apple does, takes guts and can be costly and most big companies don't want anything to do with that.

Bullshit Observer

For a cool brand to come off cool, marketers need to take they're sweaty little paws (do paws sweat?) off the ads and let the agency and one or two client side people do what they're good at. No trust, no bling.

Jonathan Cohen

IBM Thinkpad X41 tablets are cool.

So are HP Media Center PCs (the ones with the dual tuners that look like stereo components).

Why aren't they better known? Poor marketing, and poor alignment with corporate branding.

Marketing does matter...and 'un-hip' companies are coming up with cool stuff every day.

Edward Cotton

Nice list of recent examples. All the big guys are dipping a toe in the water of cool from time to time. The reality is that most of these are mass-market businesses, so they flirt with cool, without ever making a serious commitment because their cultures never let them.

The ones that do it best are those that give a dedicated unit autonomy to do whatever it takes, Unilever’s Axe team is possibly the best example of this.

So perhaps your next post can be on the big guys that get it right?

Chris Lee

Awesome blog entry!

It seems sooo true. Embrace your brand identity from the start and maintain that consistency: just like as humans work.


Perhaps here we get why a brand must die to come alive.


I don't think that agencies in general don't get it... I think that, like the Web's introduction, many people just aren't ready for it yet, and may be rushing in as they try to teach themselves. Wal-mart is a great example of a company who didn't listen to their highly embarrassed agency when they launched that horrid campaign.

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