Pepsi has launched a new iPhone app called ‘Amp up Before you Score’ which is causing a stir in the social media world. www.Mashable.com published an article called
The issue being discussed is an iPhone App that promotes a Pepsi Brand called Amp can be downloaded for free. It offers to find information and local restaurants that would aid in developing a relationship with a woman. But it is more than a bit edgy in that it also offers pick up lines: it has a ‘brag list’ where the user can enter details of their conquests and then integrates well enough to post them on Facebook or Twitter. It divides women into 24 types, customizing the approach to each type. The Youtube video of the application has been seen over 160,000 times.
The application was released last week and already it has gone viral with mixed responses, often divided by sex. Pepsico has apologized on Twitter for any offense its application caused and thanking the community for its feedback but as of Wednesday Oct 14, 2009, the app has not been taken down.
One has to wonder what Pepsico and the leaders of the Amp product were trying to do. They have certainly caused outrage amongst both men and women for stereotyping and degrading women..ie the whole implication of scoring is a win / lose scenario.
Was this a mistake or was the controversy was planned? In my view, it was planned. I cannot imagine that an iPhone app like this was an accident of an overzealous product manager with a great idea that slipped through the ‘management oversight’. One would normally expect of a consumer packaged goods company like Pepsico to have an industrial strength process that requires management scrutiny and sign offs before a new launch into the marketplace. The CEO of Pepsico is a woman!
My assessment is that is iPhone app was a calculated public relationship ploy designed to get buzz in social media but which the company hopes will die down eventually. In the meantime, the buzz will create curiosity and drive more sales of the Amp product.
A customer satisfaction professional would have difficulty being heard when working with an organization when something this controversial is being contimplated. The target audience may have been males in their 20s and 30s. But the new world of social media and blogs means you cannot keep this limited to a target audience. Pepsi’s customers and shareholders are all prospective consumers of Pepsi’s other brands. There are other stakeholders as well, suppliers, bankers, investors who may be offended by this activity, despite the fact that it may drive sales in ONE of Pepsi’s brands. What affect could that offense create for Pepsico? Clearly they think it is minimal.
The point of this article is to look at the broader issue.
1.Brands in a company no longer exist in a vacuum, separated from the parent company. You will notice that the apology came with a hashtag of #pepsifail which means that the problem is being attributed back to the bigger Brand..ie Pepsi.
2. There is no such thing as a pilot any more. A company used to be able to introduce something quietly, in a small market, test something, check out customer feedback but that is no longer easily done with the reach of social media and the web.
3. The public at large will be watching what an organization does (apologize) and does not do (withdraw the application). It remains to be seen how much damage this will do to the overall Pepsi brand image.
What is your opinion? Are the risks worth the possible alienation of the broader stakeholders?