Hit the ”Refresh” button. At least that is what Pepsi will be doing by deciding to not promote their beverages on television during the Super Bowl on February 7, for the first time in twenty-two years. Instead, the Pepsi lineup will be throwing hail Mary passes from a digital platform in an effort to stem the sales slide in carbonated drinks,in an viral effort to reach the teen market. Pepsico laid an egg last year with the flat and warm ”Every Generation Refreshes The World” and ”Refresh Everything” tag lines on traditional media platforms which had intial buzz then quickly fizzed.
”Following a report in Ad Age that the marketer was considering pulling back from the Super Bowl this year, Pepsi confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that it would focus on its coming “Pepsi Refresh Project,” a marketing effort that aligns Pepsi with social responsibility and has a heavy emphasis on digital media. The beverage maker will bypass the big game for the first time in 23 years (though its Frito-Lay sibling, Doritos, will advertise during the event). That’s a marked turnabout from last year, when PepsiCo went so far as to block rival Coca-Cola and other non-alcoholic beverage marketers from the first half of the game.”( AdAge.com)
Pepsico is pouring marketing dollars into its “Pepsi Refresh Project” starting next month as its main vehicle for Pepsi. The project will pay at least $20 million for projects people create to “refresh” communities. A Web site will go live Jan. 13 where people can list their projects, which could range from helping to feed people to teaching children to read. People can vote starting Feb. 1 to determine which projects receive money. Putting the cynicism of the philanthropic initiative aside:”Pepsi has been trying to capitalize more on the move toward social media. A Pepsi spokeswoman explained the move by saying: ‘In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event and more about a movement.’ Which we think translates into: “Broadcast is dead.”, and the move to movement based marketing and away from events means one thing: broadcast is dead.” ( Simon Houpt, Globe and Mail )
Pepsico and its competitors have been besieged by criticism about environmental waste created by bottling a drink that people can get from the tap. Only 24.6% of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic bottles used for soda, water and other products are recycled in the U.S., according to the National Association for PET Container Resources, an industry group.Concern about water supplies is seeping to investors who own stock in companies that use large amounts of water. A group of Pepsico shareholders have filed a resolution asking the company to report on the business risk of water use throughout its supply chain. The resolution also asks the company to disclose its “current policies and procedures for mitigating the impact of operations on local communities in areas of water scarcity.”
Gigi Kellett, national director of a “Think Outside the Bottle Campaign” for Corporate Accountability International, an organization that urges consumers to drink tap water, said a lighter bottle is welcome. But she said she’s concerned about “putting a green veneer on a plastic bottle.”"Bottled water is costly for the environment, our pocketbooks and our public water systems,” Ms. Kellett said. ( Wall Street Journal ) Criticism of Pepsi extends over a broad range of topics; from health hazards, working with repressive regimes, cruelty to animals through their KFC division, and theft of scarce water resources:
CSE Director Sunita Narain told journalists in Delhi that samples from 12 states showed that Pepsi products contained 30 times more pesticides than found in 2003.Likewise she said that Coke samples had 25 times the amount of pesticides found three years ago.
Pepsico is also facing criticism over gender issues for an iPhone application that promises to help men “score” with two dozen stereotypes of women by giving users pickup lines and a scoreboard to keep track of their conquests.The app, called “Amp up before you score” to market its Amp energy drink, was later removed after it received heated criticism for stereotyping women, according to the Associated Press. But, the actions of Pepsico to establish the values of a new generation of consumers are not much different than some of their alleged environmentalist opposition.
In 1990, Margo Morgan self- published a bestselling book called ‘‘Mutant Message Down Under” about her 170 day experience living with Australian aboriginal people, and in 1995 Harper-Collins pushed sales even higher. Whether a hoax like Carlos Castaneda, or a New Age appropriation resulting in additional spiritual chaos rupturing the soul of a culture; the book nonetheless puts our consumer materialism, its false values and the degree to which we have transf
d ourselves into a ”mutant” people by lengthening our degree from nature into a broad social and economic context in which the choice between leeching onto Pepsi against Coke pushes any plausible limits of sanity to the point of absurdity.There is however, a large chasm between the pop environmentalism and vague social responsibility of large multinationals and authentic respect for the earth:
”A Common thread of survival transcends spiritually through the totemic bloodlines of the earth’s indigenous peoples, symbolically embedded in the red ochre stories passed from one generation to another. The wisdom accuired by ceremonial knowledge is moved by sacred song and ancient law protected by iniatic right. By the warmth of the campfires our old people told stories of respect through the balance of law. These laws since the beginning of time nurtured and balance the existence of life in harmony with nature. Images and symbols depicted upon natural Earth elements such as sand, rock faces, banks, and crushed ant hills by inscribing and the application of ochre represented earthforms such as waterholes, rivers, hills, fire, stars, tracts, and sites that told of stories of ceremonial activity”.( Robert Eggington )
Mutant Message Down Under chronicles the journey of a middle-aged, white, American woman with a group of 62 desert Aborigines, the “Real People”, across the continent of Australia. The author states the book was written after the fact inspired by actual experience. In fact, the book is a hoax, showing disrespect for every element of aboriginal protocol.
During the walkabout she gains insights on the following members of the tribe in particular: Regal Black Swan Elder, Story Teller, Tool Maker, Secret Keeper, Sewing Master, Bearer of Happiness, great Stone Hunter, Medicine Man, Game Woman, Kindred to Large Animals, Spirit Woman, Kin to Birds, Peace Maker, Healing Woman, Memory Keeper, Time Keeper, Female Healer, Sister to Bird Dreaming, Composer and Dream Catcher; all of whom she invented. She eats bugs, snakes,and plants she never knew existed.
She learns to communicate by hand signals and mental telepathy. She also learns the arts of transformation and illusion and the secrets of Dreamtime. She is given the names Travelling Tongue and Two Hearts by the tribe.She intoduces the tribe to gravy,jumping rope,teeter tottering,a Texas line dance called Cotton Eyed Joe, Waltzing and square dancing.
Towards the end of the walkabout she is told it is her turn to lead the tribe. She does so for two and a half days without water in temperatures above 100°F. She finally leads the tribe to water after abandoning her western, left-side brain ways and using telepathy to request help from the tribe…She is given access to sacred sites.
Mutant is marketed as ”a book of fiction inspired by actual experience” and in sum, is a leap into a romanticism not dissimilar to Rene Chateaubriand’s ”Atala” based on a visit to America in the late Eighteenth century, James Redfield’s new age adventures in South America or even Jack London’s ”Call of the Wild” or ”Sea Wolf” where the retreat into nature and psychological penetration went hand in hand; and lastly a hand in glove companion to Carlos Castaneda’s ”Don Juan ” teachings. All in all, cultural rubbish and no less authentic than the ”Hopenhagen” environmental ads of Coke or Pepsi’s .
A reader who has purchased Mutant Message Down Under after learning about Marlo Morgan either through the media interviews, attending one of Marlo Morgan’s lectures or watching Marlo Morgan on the Oprah Winfrey show would also be aware that both Marlo Morgan and the central character Marlo are over fifty years of age, are from Kansas City, are divorced, have bleached hair, are plump, have worked as an acupuncturest, have grandchildren, entered the Mrs America contest as Mrs Kansas and was born in Iowa.
There is a relation a convergence of interests between the social and environmental push of Coke and pepsi, and the hard-core protestors at Copenhagen Climate Conference. They both speak the language of a ”new age” in the same way Marlo Morgan and other tricksters appropriate Indigenous sacred traditions into a form of ”contemporary religiosity” that emphasizes personal transformation and healing. The Romantic beliefs about an environmental utopia are a reaction to the Western nature/Technology dichotomy that has a tendency towards the discovery of the sacred in everyday life. These ”other cultures”, notably Australian and North American first peoples, are seen as emphasizing elements which are missing from contemporary Western society such as environmental friendliness which is integrated with ”movements”, as Pepsico stated, in the most plastic and synthetic synthesis possible to present an illusion of Golden Age Arcadian Fantasy, with a measured dose of guilt and fear.
Naomi Klein, almost in spite of herself, does understand the nature of ”branding”, and her ”No Logo” analysis has also begun to realize that broad social movements, are far more powerful ”brands” to appropriate, than individual labels; its the same institution of influence peddling behind the Obama electoral campaign, The environmental movement, etc. ” The first time I saw the ”Yes We Can” video, the one produced by Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am, featuring celebrities speaking and singing over a martin Luther King-esque Obama speech, I thought: finally, a politician with ads as cool as Nike. The ad industry agreed. A few weeks before he won the presidential elections, Obama beat out Nike, Apple, Coors, and Zappos to win the Association of National Advertiser’s top annual award.” ( Globe and Mail ) ….”So the problem is not that Obama is using the same tricks and toolsas the super-brands; anyone wanting to move the culture these days pretty much has to do that. The problem is that, as with so many other lifestyle brands before him, his actions do not come close to living up to the hopes he has raised”
Again, its the preference for symbols over substance. Whether its Coca-Cola, The Environment or brand Obama, there is no demand on an existing power structure, and nothing remotely transformative being presented, except perhaps a shuffling of the deck chairs on a sinking ship filling up with rhetoric. Like an empty Pepsi can being pushed by the wind down a deserted street.