Every month brings a new station-domination campaign (yes, that's the official marketing-ese) to San Francisco's underground BART stations. Here's what the Powell Street station looks like right now:
Here's a clue: This campaign introduces the eleventh logo in the company's 110-year history. The company's top execs call it a "quantum leap" toward transforming the company's image.
Here's another clue: the URL in the lower right-hand corner—RefreshEverything.com.
Take another look:
That "POP" should be the giveaway. The ads are for Pepsi; the new logo (one of several for the brand family) was designed by Omnicom's Arnell Group at a cost of at least $1 million. And that's just for the design; it doesn't calculate the cost of replacing all the old logos (on cans, bottles, trucks, vending machines, etc.).
As for "Refresh Everything," it suggests the carbonated-beverage category (although I confess I got it confused with competitor Coca-Cola's classic slogan, "The Pause That Refreshes").
Here's what Ad Age said about the redesign:
The new logo is a white band in the middle of Pepsi's circle that loosely forms a series of smiles: A smile will characterize brand Pepsi, while a grin is used for Diet Pepsi and a laugh is used for Pepsi Max.
Brand New, the blog by design firm Under Consideration, was underwhelmed, to put it mildly. The blog awarded Pepsi its "top dishonor" in its Best and Worst Logos of 2008, citing "lack of appropriateness." Check out the original Brand New Pepsi post, from October, to see all the logo variations and to read the 500+ reader comments. Samples: "The font and layout make me want to cry." "I hope this logo is a huge misunderstanding. If not, this is brand butchering." "A train wreck."
One commenter, however, said: "The wave-to-smile shift is so subtle and clever, I think we'll all be applauding Pepsi down the road." That indeed was my own response to the BART station posters. I like the asymmetry, the grace, and the whimsy of the logo, and the wordplay is charming.
For the record, I don't like the lower-case font used for "Pepsi" on the labels. And the new bottles are admittedly pretty bizarre looking.
And I have a few reservations about the BART campaign. Such as: What happened to the "E" in "LOV"? Also, why do we get this...
...and also "SODA POP" (spelled conventionally) on another poster?
But then I saw this:
Hmm. That looks familiar.
Now check out the RefreshEverything website, which opens with this:
Dear Mr. President
What would you say to the man who is about to refresh America? No matter where you are or who you voted for, we want to hear from you.
That's some pretty impressive cross-branding. Or coattail-riding. Or chutzpah. I can't quite decide.
Some Pepsi factoids:
- There are at least two theories about how Pepsi got its name: (1) from an early acquisition of Pep Cola or (2) from the Greek word pepse, meaning digestion (possibly to suggest a remedy for dyspepsia).
- Pepsi has gone bankrupt twice, in 1931 and 1939. On both occasions the company's assets and trademark were sold to new owners.
- The Pepsi entry on Wikipedia lists 37 slogans, including several used only in India. The earliest slogan listed (1939) is "Twice As Much for a Nickel." Those cola wars started early.
- In China, the Pepsi name is rendered in characters that translate to "100 ways to good luck."
- In Japan, the official Pepsi mascot is called Pepsiman.
- As for the persistent story that a previous Pepsi slogan, "Come alive! You're in the Pepsi generation," means "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the grave" in Mandarin or Cantonese: maybe, maybe not. Snopes, the ultimate authority on such things, notes that Pepsi has never denied the story. (That Snopes entry is full of interesting Pepsi lore, including lyrics to old jingles. I love this line about Pepsi's out-of-it-ness in the 1950s: "Pepsi ... became strongly identified with young marrieds on budgets who saw themselves as striving for that Father Knows Best ideal of triumphantly entertaining the mightily-impressed neighbors at chic little cola-swilling soirées.")
- Mountain Dew, a Pepsi brand, has been renamed as part of the current branding. Please update your files: it's now called "Mtn Dew." Better for texting and Twittering, I suppose.
If you've read this far and are still interested in big-budget underground advertising, here's my 2007 post about a BART campaign by Perrier.