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The Strategy Behind Pepsi’s “Challenger” Brand Approach With Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing

The Strategy Behind Pepsi’s “Challenger” Brand Approach With Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing

– If you ask respectfully,
like if you’re the one that, you know, listen, D-Rock
emailed many times, there’s people who like, inappropriately stand outside
my office and do other things. That’s not gonna work if you’re making the person uncomfortable, if you’re not bringing them value. But if you respectfully ask, you’re putting yourself in a position. Hey everybody, so we continue our series of interviews here at Can. Thank you for everybody
listening on the podcast. Anybody watching on video,
it’s been a good start. We’re in day, I’m in day two here and we continue the
process with a gentleman that I admire quite a bit. As most of you know I rarely
have individuals on my show that I’m actually actively
doing business with because I always think
it’s a tough spot for them, it’s a tough spot for
me, for the audience but, what I’ve noticed over
the last year or two when you go macro or micro
with it, at the end of the day, what I’m most passionate about
is educating the audience, giving them insights, and
sometimes there’s a huge advantage of being up close and personal. I’ve seen this gentleman push the envelope in the short period of
time we’ve been in trenches we’ve known of each other for a long time, we’ve worked with PepsiCo,
with Mountain Dew, with Pepsi in different ways. We’re now very involved with Pepsi Blue Can on the digital side. And this gentleman is at the helm, Todd, why don’t you tell the
Vandernation who you are, what your title is, and then
we’ll get into the show. – Yeah, sure. I’m Todd Kaplan, I head up the
Pepsi brand in North America. And yeah, I’ve been working at PepsiCo for a number of different years in a variety of different functions, as you know, we rotate
around in the marketing side, and I’ve done everything from Mountain Dew to brands of entertainment to sports, to most recently, our water portfolio where we created and
launched two new brands. Lifewater and Bubbly. And then now on–
– Which was massive. – It’s massive.
– It’s really worked. – It’s exciting.
– Todd, A lot of people watch and listen to my content
are entrepreneurial, but as my career’s evolved
into the marketing landscape, I get way more DMs and
emails and LinkedIns about, hey, I may want a brand or, you know, I think you
know this personally, when I talk about buying
orphan brands long term, still working on my Mug Root Beers, we’ll talk about that off camera. You know people are like
hey, I want to do that, or I want to be involved. How did that happen for you? Let’s go all the way
back, where were you born? – I’m from Southern
California, originally, so I’m a West Coast guy, grew up in SoCal. – Surfer kid? – Not a surfer kid. – Okay.
– But definitely grew up– – Extreme, like skateboards, sports, what? – I’d skate, I do sports, I played tennis, I do like hundreds of hours– – You’re not a Baltimore Orioles fan. – I’m definitely not like Nate, the Baltimore Orioles fan, no. I’m a huge Lakers fan, I’m an Angels fan. – I know that. Are you… – AD person now, there’s
been a moment of like, thank god.
– Were you just super pumped? – Super pumped for that, they did give up the
farm by the way, for him, but yeah, I think they’re a
couple of free agents away from a couple other
pieces they need to make. – Kuz was what you were like. – They kept Kuz, they
got AD, they got ‘Bron, and I think they named, you
know, someone on the point, they’ll do something. – You think Jimmy Butler’s coming? – I’ve heard Butler, I’ve heard Kemba, I’ve heard a variety of things. You know, I don’t know where. – But you’re excited.
– I’m excited, at least. – That’s your squad.
– That’s my squad. – How old are you?
– I’m 40. – Right, so Magic. – Growing up, Magic, Kareem, and you know, Shaq, Kobe, the whole deal like that, that’s in my blood. – So, basketball’s number one for you? – As far as viewing, yeah. – And then?
– Yeah. Basketball, and then I’d say… – Do you have any second favorite team? – It’s the Angels. Baseball.
– The Angels. – And so I grew up about like 15 minutes from Anaheim Stadium and so,
you know, growing up again, Angels, that was a bit of a
tougher fan to be following. – Yeah, well Tim Sammie was fun. – Tim Sammie, yeah you can
empathize as a Jets fan. – I can empathize. I can empathize with anybody, I mean why don’t you ask, and Knicks fan. – You got all the good ones. – You literally couldn’t write
a script of Klay and Durant getting hurt leading into the series. – I mean that whole, it’s gonna be crazy. I feel bad for, A, the
Warriors, B, I mean KD, this was, I mean, the
Knicks fans, everybody. That just blows up everything. – So you grew up in SoCal. You’re into those sports things. What else are you kind of about? – Yeah, so, I’m a big… – Were you a good student,
were you entrepreneurial, were you neither?
– Yeah, so, entrepreneurial, it’s funny you talk about that like, I actually, you probably don’t
even know any of this stuff. I have a very entrepreneurial
knack as well. That’s actually one of
the reasons why I think, as I look at now, a career– – I see your creativity. Like out of all the
people who I work with, there’s a level of
creativity that is obviously, and which a lot of times I do associate with entrepreneurship so it
doesn’t stun me, go ahead. – But it’s not just ’cause it, it’s connecting it to
just getting shit done, moving it forward,
making it happen, and so, entrepreneurially, so, I grew
up in Southern California. You know, good grades, you
know, top of the class, all that kind of stuff
but went to Northwestern for undergrad which
was an interesting case going from 80 degrees on the
beach all the way to like, sub zero temperatures out in
Lake Michigan and Chicago. – How did that end up happening? – I wanted to go to a big
school, but not too big. It was like D1, it was
like, big 10 rah rah, but still a very good school. That was around the time
they’d in like the Rose Bowl, Gary Barnett, all that kind of thing but, so I’m like…
– Yeah maybe the Rose Bowl. – Go check that out. And it was great, it’s a great school. And so, and it was great, just again, I wanted to also
just go away for college and just kind of get out from all my friends staying in California, so went to Northwestern,
and it was interesting, as I’ve always had this passion. One of the reasons I’m in marketing is I’m just really interested
in the consumer psyche, kind of goes–
(audio cutting) Intellectually, and then also
just on how people connect. And I’ve always just been
interested and creative, as you said, kind of wired
a little bit differently. And so, again, I got
really into marketing, I’ve also been really into sports. And so that’s where, I’ll get
into my background in sports, but when I was in college, the ironic thing is that Northwestern is the school that is esteemed
from an MBA standpoint for marketing and Kellogg
and all this kind of stuff but as an undergrad, you know, the closest I could get was
like, I was an econ major. I didn’t care much about economics, but it was one of these things that was, and so I wanted to really get
more experience in that space, and so I said you know what,
I’m gonna start a business. I see a couple needs. So I actually started a
business when I was in college as an undergrad in Northwestern. – Love. – It’s called AdShop. And basically it was
connecting the dots between, there was this need on campus, and this is now gonna totally date me, but if you go back to one
of these college campuses around the time when I was in college, you’d have papers plastered all over the fricking student union for shows here, this
there, taped to the ground, you know, it’s a silo, it’s just very, the marketing for student
groups sucked, basically. At the same time you have people who are interested in marketing and getting into advertising marketing and people want to say,
well what’s your portfolio? What have you worked on? – Yeah. – Connecting those two
dots together, saying, huh. There’s probably some people here who want to like get their feet wet, there’s also a need to kind of do, be more effective and targeted, so we started this thing
as kind of the first advertising agency for
student groups on campus. And the thing just blew
up and started growing. By the end, by the time I graduated, I had a number of people
in this organization, had written about it, Chicago Sun-Times, we had client in local, it became a thing. And so that– – Did you pass it onto somebody? – So we passed it on
and it became a thing. And then separately, you know, and saying, I’m kind of getting interested
in this idea of just, you know, leading and being
more of an entrepreneur. So in my senior year I did kind of a, more of a for-profit,
you know, kind of one, that was this thing called
the campus pipeline, it was about kind of
targeting college students with advertising with local
businesses, things like that. So, definitely– – You ideated on top of the original idea. – Yeah, just to kind of take as that kind of a spin
off sort of thing and so, but it also gave me a lot of experience in just kind of, you
know, leading big teams, I’ve always been kind of very involved, even, again, in high school, leading big groups, all
that kind of stuff, and so, as you think of some of
those things formatively, and then also just, as I think of the type of the experiences that
led to my career, you know. When I was a junior, I interned at the U.S. Olympic Committee, you know, sports marketing
was kind of my passion. And so I was very– – At that point in your life, what did you think you were gonna do? You were gonna run
marketing for the Lakers? Like how did you– – It was more a matter of, yeah, like I knew sports was something
I was passionate about, marketing I had really started
to really hone and all that and I’m like, either this
was, again, like, the, not to date me but like the internet, the way that the job
sites, all that stuff, like it wasn’t as easily accessible. – Don’t worry, I’m older than you. – I know, so it’s fair
enough, fair enough. – They still like, me, so they won’t… – So literally, and it’s funny, if you were to ask my college
roommate, he would like, always teach me about this, but like, my senior year, I sent out
about 300 like, resumes, the article that was in
circuit, all this kind of, I sent out to every sports team, agency, this kind of, sponsor. Just hitting like, casting that, see what’s up.
– Smart. – Proactive with what’s going on. – Wide nets. – Wide net, and then, I got an unbelievable response.
– Did the Baltimore Orioles reach out to you, no?
– Not the Baltimore Orioles, sorry, Nate. But they, (laughs) sorry! But no, but I got, I mean
I got a ton of, you know, interest and offers and as we
were kind of going through it and it was just a really
good experience and so, I ended up–
– Do you remember some, do you remember some of the offers? – There was a variety, you know, we were talking to, you know,
it was everything from IMG all the way to the, you
know, every sports team, and a lot of it coming out
of college it’s like also, where do you want to move,
where do you want to live? – Yeah. – Going back to my SoCal story, like, I was freezing my ass off in Chicago. – (laughs) Done with this experiment. – I have to get back to California. And so one of the really
interesting ones that came up was a sports marketing agency
that was in the Bay area where it was called
Mel’s Sport at the time, and Visa International was their client, and so it was basically to
lead Visa’s Olympic games and all the global sponsorships. So moved back to
California after undergrad, lived in the Bay area. – What year is this? – This is 2000, class of 2000. – Yeah, so right from 2000. – Yes, right as the
dot-com, and before 9/11. – So you thought you were going to the paved streets of gold. Right?
– A little bit, yeah. – I mean it was crazy then. – A little bit, it was a little crazy. – And then was it April
2000 when it melted or it was April 2001, I
always try to remember. Do you remember, you graduated
in that class of 2000. Had the dot-com bubble
already, just bursted. – It was just after, ’cause
I had gotten a lot of, there was, you know.
– That’s what I thought. That’s what I thought, April 2000. – There was a lot of people
who were coming, you know, a lot of these dot-coms, a lot of these people were
reaching out at the time, similarly, like every top.
– Like sportsportsports.com, worth $40 trillion. – Yeah, there’s this, there’s that, what was it, the pets.com
sock puppet on the Super Bowl, right, all that kind of stuff. So literally– – So as you’re kind of on
your way to graduation, the world is unbelievably frothy. It’s like right now. – Well it’s like, yeah, I’m thinking like. – Easy. – We’re gonna go get this thing, and also it was less…
– April 2000, dot-com bubble bursts. – Yeah. – You’re going to the Bay,
so you go the Bay area right as everyone’s like, frowning. – Right, it’s just kind of like, yeah, what’s going on out here? And yeah, so I started with Visa, working for municipal,
but I worked in house, in Visa’s headquarters, down in Foster City.
– Got it, got it. Make sense.
– And so, it was really cool, getting exposure, so doing everything from working on, you know, worked on the
Sydney, Salt Lake Olympics, and the Athens Olympics
were the main ones, kind of, you know.
– Getting ready. – We did, and did everything from managing a huge on site thing in Athens with all the former Olympians, called the Visa Olympian Reunion Center, all the way to just, you know, the comms and everything in between, and just, it was a really great experience because also, for that stage in my career, being straight out of college, the team there was very senior level. And getting exposure also,
at a global business, ’cause it was a global sponsorship. So we’re talking like, Rugby World Cup, and things that were
going on in Australia, and all this stuff. It’s a really great learning ground to just understand–
– Were you a cliche American? Being like, what the hell’s rugby? Initially?
– Initially. And then I had to learn what a try is, and do all the all blacks, the haka, and all that, I learned
all that shit, man. It was a really cool experience just kind of getting
exposure to that and so, did that for a number of
years out at the Bay area, and then straight after
the Athens 2004 Olympics, came out east to business school, which is where I went to Yale. And in between my first and second year is where I discovered Pepsi, actually. Indra Nooyi, our former
CEO, was speaking on campus. And I was kind of the,
again, the dorky guy, went up to her afterwards and said, hey, do you guys recruit? And I didn’t think they did, she’s like, maybe we should, you know. – Let’s talk about the dorky guy. – I’m a dorky guy.
– I know that, that’s why I’m jumping in on it. You said it. – That’s true, it’s true. – I view it a little bit different, based on the stories, and
something I think a lot about. I said it yesterday, like, somewhere, I don’t remember, if you
don’t ask, you don’t get. You know, you send out these 300 things. You go up to Indra. – It’s initiative. – Yeah, I’m also a person who can, like, who lives in a world
where I can see in people’s eyes they want to come up and do
something, and they don’t. And because others do, I
can’t get to that person, and D-Rock’s like, we’re
gonna miss our flight, and we run away. And I think about those moments a lot. I’m like, wow, that person
really wanted to ask something. They might have, 99% of the time, they’re not necessarily
saying something I need, or am interested in, or you know. But, the amount, I mean, D-Rock emailed, how many times did you, D-Rock
saw me speak at Columbia. Right? Thought it was interesting,
and emailed me. – [D-Rock] Around eight
times, I think eight times. – Eight times before I answered. Right, and I was, you know,
in the south of France. (all laughing) – And here we are. – And so. – But you’re right, there’s something. – Yeah, no, listen, a lot of
times when I’m doing this, like obviously I love
having you on the show, but I’m desperately worried about everybody listening
right now, and like. – Oh I know, 100%.
– This is such an example. And I just feel like people
need to, you need to act. Like, if you ask respectfully. Like if you’re the one, you know listen, D-Rock emailed me eight times. There’re people who like, inappropriately stand outside
my office and do other things. That’s not gonna work if you’re making the person uncomfortable, if you’re not bringing them value, but if you respectfully ask, you’re putting yourself in a position. So Indra at Yale. You hear that and you
were impressed by her, or Pepsi was so iconic, or a mix of the both? – One of the reasons I went
back to business school, frankly, was when I was
in sports marketing, I knew that there would be probably a cap to kind of where I could
go, what I could do. – You got a taste of the landscape of the corporate world.
– I got a taste. – You said if I don’t get an MBA, I’m not gonna be able to– – Yeah, and it was less that, you know, and an MBA, the advice I
give whenever anybody asks me about hey, should I go
back and get my MBA, should I do it? I always say, listen. If you go to law school you’re a lawyer. If you go to med school you’re a doctor. You got an MBA, you’re a dude with an MBA. And so at the end of the day, when you think about business school, it’s not about having the MBA that actually does anything for you, it’s what you do with it, it’s how you broaden your horizons, it’s the networking, it’s
all the kind of stuff that comes with it, and so that to me, going back to get it, back to my story, was about broadening my horizon beyond kind of this world of sports, and learning more about, you know, the financial stuff, and marketing, and all these different elements. – Plus at a place like Yale, You’re gonna bump–
– Organizational behavior. – Into all sorts of people. – Speakers and that’s where, and so again, when I was there it was less even about, I’d go to class, I’d do all this stuff, but I was there for the
whole experience and so, when you talk about going
to a place like Yale where I was fortunate enough to go, and the speakers, the people. – It’s absurd.
– It was out of control, and so going to all these things and I would make the most
of just, to your point, of just go to all the,
attend all these speakers, go to all these things, I’d go, I’d led a trip to Japan with
a group of my friends there, where the people helped, we connected with the head
of Nissan and all this stuff, I mean, like it’s– – The access, the brand– – It was a very cool–
– Plus Ivy League basketball is always a fun, competitive
kind of like league as well. – Right, right. So that was really cool
there and ended up, ended up interning for Pepsi in between my first and second years. And the irony was I had wanted
to go to Pepsi or big CPG to kind of get beyond sports marketing and just broaden my horizons. And guess where they had
placed me for my intern? – Sports.
– Sports group. – Of course.
– So I worked for a guy named John Galloway, who
was an iconic at the time, and was kind of one of my
mentors who brought me into Pepsi and we, you know, got along like, you know, two peas in the
pod and just made the most, and so I came back full-time. – You know what’s funny about that story, just for everybody. A lot of the things that
I tell my brother AJ, and I have a sports agency,
and a lot of the things I tell kids before the draft is, you know, they’re like, I
want to go second round, I want to go third round, I’m like, bro, I’d rather you go fifth
round than second round, and have the person ahead
of you in the depth chart be the kind of veteran who
actually wants you to succeed, than you going second round, and having a guy in the depth chart who is worried about you, and is undermining you, and
is teaching you nothing, or you have bad coaching, like, you know, it’s unbelievable how much that matters. – Yeah. No, and– – And that’s what you
had in this internship. – It totally is. I had a great kind of mentor that, you know, definitely looked out for me, and also, I will tell you, the intern program at
Pepsi is kind of funny, they do this thing every
year called the intern bash, which, it was like kind of, you know, they make the interns have a lot of fun and do silly things. And I’m still convinced, back to your idea of
taking the initiative, you know, and I’m someone who
likes to put myself out there, so when I was the intern, this year, we had to do a 1980’s fashion show, for the entire company,
outside in purchase, right? And so everybody, you know, someone’s dressing up like Madonna, someone’s dressing up
like, you know, Miami Vice. I decided it’s a good idea to do Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Basically, tighty whities. White shirt, candlestick.
– You went there. You went there. – I went there. And quite literally I still
get asked by people about it. I’m convinced that’s the
only reason I got hired. – I believe that. I believe that story. By the way, by the way.
– Literally. But that’s the kind of thing,
just put yourself out there, it’s like, just put yourself
out there, it’s like, you know what–
– Todd, by the way. – I’m having a great time. – Literally, somebody that
worked at Vander for 10 years, who’s now my partner
in Empathy Wines, Nate, single-handedly got his job ’cause he super duper duper tried hard during volleyball as an intern in Vermont when we did a company offsite. – Yeah.
– The way he tried to win is why I, like, advanced his career. – Yeah. – I believe in that shit. That’s exactly right. But it has to be authentic to you, right? – It has to be, yeah. – Like you’re that kind of character. – Yeah, I’m a ham, yeah totally. – That’s right. That’s why I’m saying to everybody
who’s listening right now if you’re like okay. Like I’m in internship right now, I’m gonna break out this year. And you’re super introverted.
– No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t do that. – It’s gonna come across super awkward. Authenticity is like the
core of all this stuff. – And to that point,
you know, I, you know, to the point and we can get
to kind of course skills and all that stuff, but
I do a course at PepsiCo on storytelling, I’m a big
proponent of storytelling and how to tell a good, logical
story and all this stuff, but that’s one of the big misnomers, is everybody feels that, you know, to tell an effective story, to present at a big conference, to do anything, you got to be somebody who you’re not.
– Over the top, yeah. 100%, 100%.
– The key is be yourself, just be 100% authentic
to you and just own it. Don’t try to be what you’re not, and just figure out how to lean into that. – To make this point,
I’m sure for you and I, we share a lot of this
charisma, over the top. There’s a lot of times
where we knowingly know some of our energy is
detrimental, given the context. – Totally. – And you try to tone it down, but even that is not gonna necessarily be who you are either. – Totally.
– I mean there’s places where on stage, it’s great that I’m
like, cursing, whatever. But you know, in small
meetings, sometimes like, it’s just like, that’s not gonna play. – Yeah. – But I’m still gonna do it because that’s just
like, most comfortable. – You can always choose that.
– Let’s segue. – Yeah. – I’m fascinated by challenger
brand being a number, you know, you were not, you know. Some of the stuff that
you’re getting heralded for in the last couple hours here, and now some of the Cola stuff like, the Pepsi challenge is one of those iconic things of all time. Like nobody listening right now, is confused that Coke, Pepsi, is like, some of the most interesting
banter in business. There’s not that many places where you have such a
dominant one and two, that it’s almost fun to
watch Ali and Fraser fight. – Yeah. – But you happen to find
yourself in that world. How is that, how do you think about that? – Yeah. – When you’re talking to predecessors that have run the business, have you leaned more into, I’m gonna punch you in the face, have others been more passive? Have you been more
aggressive or vice versa? When you kind of got signed
up for the gig, moving, like, what was your initial
thoughts versus the reality, I’d love to get a state of the union on all this stuff, of that.
– Yeah, no, totally. ‘Cause it’s interesting,
coming into this role on Pepsi, from my previous role, which was again, also very entrepreneurial, starting new brands on water
and things of that sort. Coming from that environment
into the mothership, right? This is the name on the door.
– All eyes. – All eyes, lots of feedback, lots of stakeholders.
– When you’re innovating on water, people are curious, but not watching every sneeze and crossing every T.
– Correct. – You go to Blue Can, and I’m painting the picture
for everybody listening. There, by the way, for
everybody listening, as an innovator on Vayner’s side, I always tend to like to work on things that are a little more under the radar ’cause you can be far more creative. We tend to push the envelope in general, as a business model. You get on something like this,
everybody’s got an opinion. Everybody’s watching.
– That’s right. – And a lot of marketing is subjective before the reality kicks in of
the results of the business. So you deal with a lot of chatter, it’s almost like being an NBA player, and kind of Steven A, and Chris Basard, and everybody else watching
and listening and commenting. It’s a two sense machine. – It is, no, totally, and that’s, so one of the biggest things is you got to work out in public a
lot more than kind of, you know, you can kind of, you know, do your thing on these other
brands a little bit more. But I’d say from a business challenge, it’s a completely different thing. On one end, you’re coming into
this iconic brand that is, you know, got this great
heritage in pop culture, music from Britney Spears
to the Super Bowl– – Michael Jackson.
– To Uncle Drew. – All that stuff. – All that stuff, right, and
it’s got such a great heritage. At the same time, the current landscape around the consumer world has changed, and the consumption of
the category has evolved, and all of that stuff, and I’d say, you know the problem to solve
as I quickly assessed it was it’s not, Pepsi doesn’t
have an awareness issue. It doesn’t have a trial issue, it has, relevance is what we really
needed to focus on, and really, that’s where I really hunkered
in really quickly of saying, you know the main thing we got to get is this brand needs to
be culturally relevant. At the end of the day, this
brand’s been at its best when it’s those kind of
things that we talked about. But that is today–
– Is that the kind of, I apologize. Is that the kind of stuff, and I thought this was
a very smart strategy. And we didn’t work on this, for context, ’cause we did digital stuff
this morning, the TV stuff, but everybody who listens knows how much I’m obsessed
with the Super Bowl. – Yeah. – Is that the kind of stuff that leads to having Cardi in the Super Bowl stuff? – So I’ll give some
context on that, and so, one of the things I
wanted to really address is this idea of a challenger mindset. – Yes.
– The challenger, I think, one of the things that, one of the misnomers is people
thing challenger just means, oh, well you’re number two. Or oh, you’re whatever. Like that’s challenged. That’s not challenger, right? The idea of being a challenger is a mindset and a mental
approach to kind of disrupt, think of things a little bit
differently in an industry, take it, flip it on its head, and be a little bit more unapologetic and more confident in
kind of your approach in how you do this and so, one of those–
– Excuse me for one second, to add a little color commentary. All fine and dandy for
a lot of us listening when your business is tiny, and you’re an entrepreneur
and you don’t have a board. You can get there. Having a challenger mindset, when you have a brand the size of Pepsi, which is probably bigger than 99% of the other
consumer brands in the world, a little bit more tricky. – Yeah. No, definitely a little
bit more tricky and so, one of the first kind of things,
being a challenger brand, is you’ve really got to
acknowledge your place in the world and have a kind of a healthy
self-awareness for your brand. And you know, just even culturally, we could talk about culture and all that which I’m a culture junkie as well, but, I don’t like things that
feel like advertising, right? That’s like, very, you know, this idea of brands coming
out with brand messages. I’m speaking to you as a brand or whatever without any cultural acknowledgement of my place in the world,
things I care about, whatever that is, and so
starting from the standpoint of, Pepsi has had this, one of our most frequent
consumer interactions, that we’re most famous for is probably not our most proudest moment, and it’s the situation when you go into a restaurant that pour Pepsis. Somebody orders a Coke
and quite literally, the server apologizes for serving Pepsi. – Is Pepsi okay? – Is Pepsi okay? How freaking horrible is that? That is what, I mean– – That’s a great insight. – And every single one of us have gone through that
experience multiple times, where you’ve been there,
you’ve ordered one thing, a friend has ordered it,
all that kind of stuff, and so it’s like, okay. And if you look online, there’s, I mean, meme cultures have a
heyday when people say, is Pepsi okay, is Monopoly money okay? You know and there’s all these, you know, memes with Kevin Hart and all this. And so, saying, what if
we took that insight, because it is super relatable, who hasn’t been in a situation where they can connect the dots to that? Own it and say yeah. That’s how people see us, but then let’s have some fun with it, it’s Pepsi, yeah, and it’s more than okay, and have fun with it, but
then do it in a Pepsi way. Which again, bringing
the pop culture nature, so we get Cardi B.
– Yep. – Okurrr. Right, you get Lil Jon, okay! Right, and then Steve Carell, You have this wonderful kind of dynamic where we’re just like, now
we’re getting somewhere. There’s a fun little way, and you can get the Super Bowl in this, which we should also talk about, I’m a huge believer in the Super Bowl as a great platform to
go bigger and broader and all that stuff, and so
that was kind of the genesis of that whole concept,
that we really think, it really helped kind of
reframe the discussion for Pepsi around this challenger
mindset and put us on the map. Combined with that then, this
past year, the Super Bowl, you know, where it took place, in Atlanta, which was like a gift from the gods, given our competitor is Atlanta, and it’s not just because
like, oh, company to company, we’re gonna have a little corporate thing. Culturally, in Atlanta, Coke, like, runs in the veins of people. Like it is like an emotional– – It pours out of the faucet. – It is literally a deep-rooted thing. And so, saying okay. We normally go into a market, I didn’t say it like that, okay! I was just saying okay. But okay. We’re gonna go into a Super Bowl market, typically, you know, we’re
the sponsor of the NFL, we go into the Super Bowl,
we beat our chest, say, official sponsor of the
Super Bowl, blah blah blah. I’m like, we can’t just
like, run the same play, we got to have a little fun with this, and so to say, okay. If there’s Pepsi signs all over Atlanta, these Atlanta folks are gonna be like, what the hell is going on? And so what we ended up doing is leaning into that
cultural insight and saying, we bought out of home
over the entire city, and so we had billboards that said, Pepsi in Atlanta, how refreshing. Hey Atlanta, thanks for
hosting, we’ll bring the drinks. You know and had a lot of fun with these very
Pepsi-centric forward things that quite literally just
putting up the out of home alone generated of hundreds of millions of earned media impressions. People writing stories, people were Tweeting like, what the hell? I feel like I’m getting invaded right now. And at the time, you know, even who was about to
be in the Super Bowl, all the people in Atlanta, they thought the Saints were
coming in, they thought all, they’re like, what the
hell is going on here? Pepsi in Atlanta and it got
a lot of interesting buzz, and so seeing all that a couple
weeks before the Super Bowl and all the traction that
was getting, we’re like, all right, well we want
to make sure people know we’re not being mean-spirited, we all did it on the up and up, wherever, and so we’re like, we
got to let everybody know that hey, we’re grateful for
you to host the Super Bowl. And so we came up with this concept called the Cola truce. And it’s a pretty fun
also kind of instigative challenger thing we ended up doing where, essentially for anyone
who’s been to Atlanta, the World of Coke is this iconic
kind of landmark they have, it’s a museum of all the things, and they host big events and whatever. And right out in front
of the World of Coke is a statue of their
founder, John Pemberton. He’s holding out a glass of Coke, greeting you as you walk in, you know, sharing a Coke with the world, and all that great stuff. And so, quite literally, we said, what if we created a statue
of our founder, Caleb Bradham, and we got them to, you know, have a nice little cheers moment, and celebrate and declare a Cola truce. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing? And so what we ended up doing is we, we built this statue, in
record time by the way, ’cause this was just a couple
weeks out of the Super Bowl, and it was just a mad dash
to even get this thing done. And we said, but rather than just do it, we’re gonna engage them. We’ve never even, back to social media, we’ve never engaged with Coke
on social media or Tweet at, I know like, that’s commonplace
for brands like Wendy’s, and all these other brands. So we said, hey Coke. You know, we tweeted a picture, we think we should get together, whatever. And Coke just launched this campaign called Together is Beautiful. It was all about unity,
togetherness, and I’m like, this is perfect. – It’s like a movie, meanwhile,
in Atlanta headquarters, we’re gonna do Together is Beautiful. – So Together is
Beautiful, peace on earth, we’re all coming together,
I’m like, perfect, we believe together is beautiful too. Why don’t we come hang out? And we show them this
picture of the glasses. Coke tweets us back and says, of course. Welcome to Atlanta, together is beautiful. Then we tweet them back with
a picture of the full statue in the back of a Pepsi truck saying like, cool, we’re on our way. We don’t hear anything back from them. And then what we ended up doing, is we go there, to the World of Coke, we documented this whole thing. And we walked in. And quite literally we said, hey, Coke just invited us over
here, can we get this Cola? We’re trying to declare a Cola truce. And they absolutely kicked us off, they’re like, you can’t be here, we were told, instructed not
to let you on the property, blah blah blah blah. I’m like, okay, okay, and
we anticipated some of this. And so earlier that
morning we had snuck in, and actually gotten the picture ourselves, and so, you know, for the 10
minutes we could get in there, get the photos, or whatever. And so what we ended up doing is, we tweeted the photo anyhow, and said, hey, we stopped by, looked like you guys weren’t that into it. Doesn’t feel very together is beautiful. But it’s okay, we stopped
by earlier this morning. And then we actually flipped
it and said, hey, you know, we want to declare a
Cola truce for the day. Anybody who tweets the hashtag Cola truce, and a picture of them cheersing
a Coke and a Pepsi online, we’re gonna donate a meal
to the city of Atlanta to people in need. So all, again, this was all about being gracious to our host. And saying hey Atlanta, we get you, we want to do some good
for you, and so really, the thing, instantly, trending, took off like a wildfire, it got a ton of buzz,
earned media, social. And was really, really fun and exciting and people were tweeting
pictures of them cheersing, people making dance routines up, it became a whole thing and so, all that together with the
Pepsi OK, with the out of home, just was a really fun, just kind of re-energized a
lot of the brand, you know, just as one of our biggest
moments of the Super Bowl, so. – As a human, what apps. Talk to me about Netflix, social, this is Todd the man,
forget about the executive. Netflix, social media, like, what are your consumptions right now, knowing that you love culture. Obviously we’re wrapping up here and so, we’ll have to do a part two
at some point about like, culture hacking and what’s happening. – I want to get in on that for sure. – But for you as a man. What Instagram, Snap, you know. What Netflix shows do you watch, if any? – Yeah, Netflix, it’s funny. I haven’t gotten as into kind
of like the full on binging, ’cause right now, when I get– – Hulu, Amazon Prime, anything? Or you just, like when you
get home you watch sports? – I typically watch a lot of live sports. – Yeah, I get it. – And a lot of ESPN, that kind of stuff
– I’m the same, love it, I have no binge show either. – I definitely will dig around on Netflix, but I haven’t been as addicted to a series.
– Are you a documentary guy? – I can get into some of that stuff now and again.
– Stand up? – Stand up, I definitely
like a good stand up every now and again. Movies, I watch a lot of movies. – What about social-wise? Instagram, Facebook, Twitter? – Social-wise, you know, I think Twitter, I think
Facebook, Instagram. All the standard kind of things
I’m interested in I’d say, but I’m not as active. For me, and it’s interesting. I’m not as much of a live
in public kind of persona. You know, just, you know
and all that kind of stuff, but I definitely, it’s funny,
I consume a lot of them. But I’m not necessarily out there. So I consume a lot of Instagram, but I actually don’t post really. – You know what’s funny, I
don’t know if you know this. You know, I don’t share any
of my family stuff at all. – Yeah. – And both of my main careers, both wine, and now marketing, social media. I know this ’cause I
know myself obviously. I never drank beer or alcohol
in college or high school. And had I not had a family wine business, I don’t know if I ever would
have drank alcohol in my life. I mean if you go through
high school and college not drinking it, it’s not in your culture. You know and obviously I
was born in the Soviet Union and everybody was dying from vodka, so my mom like really demonized alcohol. And then, social like, I get it. I’m pretty convinced that
I currently would be, if I was doing something else
with my life, would not be, I would consume. But I would not post. Which probably sounds funny, but if you look at the content I put out, it’s my business life, it has
nothing to do with my life. – I also just think
it’s such a fascinating, even going back to
studying the human psyche, and why I have like, you know, we have friends and people we know, they post everything, they’re
eating everything, whatever, my kid won a baseball game,
all the way up to everything. And at the end of the day, like, and that’s all good and fine. That’s what a lot of it’s for, for me. I’ll post, I’m like, hey, happy birthday, that kind of stuff or
whatever, but I’m not as– – I’m thrilled they post, ’cause the one thing that clearly we share is I got to listen a little bit more, is I want to know why
they’re putting up the video of their kid scoring a touchdown. I want to know why
they’re sharing, you know, their Disney trip.
– Their meal or their– – That’s how I basically
come up with all my ideas. – Totally. And there’s so much rich insight into kind of the human behavior of why and how people are
sharing all these things, even back to this summer campaign we just launched with Instagram, right, Summergram, which you know about. – Yeah. – Where we’ve created
250 AR filters, you know, and they’re all attached to Pepsi. The core insight of, I mean, Instagram is probably the
epitome of this kind of like, look how great my life is,
kind of sort of behavior, where everyone’s seen that iconic photo of their feet on a
lounge chair by the pool with the rosea next to their side, right? – And Pepsi.
– Right, and Pepsi. We got to get that in there. And really capitalizing
it and saying, yeah, well, if unapologetically, how do you kind of amplify with these AR effects and stuff? So there’s just so many
little nuggets like that, just even just, looking around, mining on social media to really get a lot out of it.
– Let’s talk about with one thing, I like watching. Your team dynamics, you know, I do see, you know, the
entrepreneurial spirit. Like I have this quite a bit
as a leader as well, which, you get a lot of the
motivation, the rah rah, the fire, the thing. The other thing you get
with characters like us is sometimes we’re moving so fast, there’s collateral damage. As a leader, you know. And I think what I’ve watched,
’cause I love watching. What I’ve watched is I think
you have a similar dynamic that I do which is, you know obviously when
you’re in a lead position, your team is always gonna have to deal with the reality of like,
okay, that’s our leader. Like we’re gonna have to deal with that. But I think it’s palpable on your team, as it is with mine. How do you think about having
an entrepreneurial spirit in a corporate environment
where inevitably, a lot of the people that work for you are a little bit more structured, every T and I is crossed. You know, speed is sometimes the enemy. I think you and I probably
put speed on a pedestal, whereas other people
sometimes misinterpret it as being sloppy, but I think
we counter it with like, but we focus on what actually matters. – Totally. – How’s that dynamic play out? – It’s tricky because I think like you, I care deeply about team. I do a lot of offsites, team building, you know, self-discovery stuff. We go do all this crazy stuff and really want to form a bond to really make sure we
have a shared vision, I think the first step
is making sure everyone is subscribed to what
we’re trying to do here. Do you get why, do you
get where we’re going? Are you bought in? And how do you feel like
you actually can contribute and connect to this and build upon it? So that’s one thing that
I think is paramount. Two is it all starts with trust as a team. So making sure also, people
understand each other. You know the other thing I talk about is, a lot of people, I want
everyone to feel comfortable bringing their whole
selves to work, right, and connecting as real people,
not just as work people you know?
– That’s right. – And so I think may contribute, kind of break down some of those barriers and build the trust to get to this idea of high-performing team. I think once you get that going, then you have a good shot to really do whatever you need to do.
– Anything. – I think the question is is
in a big corporate environment like PepsiCo, to your point, folks like me and you,
we’re boom boom boom, we’re moving quick, we’re
thinking, we’re spitballing ideas, throwing stuff out. Sometimes, and again,
it’s a trained muscle. Sometimes you got to break a few eggs to kind of make some omelets, right? And get it going, and
so every now and then, there’s some times where
we’re like, hey, go go go, and then it’s like, oh
well we can’t do that, ’cause legal said this, oh we
can’t do that because of this and it’s like, and I’ve
been trying to instill, hey, I don’t need all those things to always boil up to me to
help kind of duke it out with our, some cross functional teams or figure out what we can and can’t do. – Three for 10 is the hall of fame. – That’s exactly. 300, right? – Cal Ripken Jr. Eddie Murray. – Totally.
– These iconic Oriole players. (all laughing) – I love the Orioles in reference to like, I think that’s good. – What do we want to end with? For everybody who’s listening. You have a slew of different
psychographics on my show. You have a ton of young, aspiring but, and an awful lot of people
more in our age group that I do think wish their
DNA was a little faster, a little more spontaneous. Anything kind of last parting shot for people that are trying
to get into a happier place or trying to accomplish more? – Yeah and I think I wouldn’t even connect it to any of this stuff on Pepsi or anything like
that but what I would say is kind of more what we
were talking about earlier. Life is what you make of it, which I know is the most
cliche kind of thing out there, but it’s this idea, I
tell everybody at Pepsi, I mentor a lot of younger folks and people who are just coming in. And a lot of people see the world as it’s presented to
them, not as it is, right? So they’ll get a job and say, well my job description says, whatever, and I’m like every job
I’ve been in at Pepsi, I’ve kind of, not rewritten completely, but you make it your own. What is your take on it, what are you gonna bring to this, and what are you passionate about as you connect the dots,
don’t always ask and just say, you know, here’s the things
that you need to do here, boom boom boom boom boom. What can you do to kind
of make your job your own, and take in your own hands? – It’s kind of like
brand marketing, right? Every brand’s, big brand’s
sentence or mission statement is so vague that how you
interpret going for it, or doing it for one time, or a life beyond the life,
or whatever it might be. – Totally. – It’s complete interpretation. – Well and it’s, I mean, case in point, when I came
into the water business, right, it was like, hey, we sell
Aquafina, we got our play, we got the segmentation done by whatever. And I was looking at it and I’m like, it feels like, but I’m looking outside, I’m seeing an explosion of premium water, I’m seeing all, and I’m like, this doesn’t feel right, I’m like, maybe we should take a step
back and rethink it and so, I’m saying, if I’m leading water, so let’s turn it on its head, let’s come up with a new thing, let’s come up with some
new, and so it’s like, don’t be afraid to push
or question the norms, just because they’re
presented to you, like, see the world as it is, not
how it’s presented to you. – And deal with the ramifications. End with that, right? Which is like end, if you sucked, and you innovated crappy
water, and you got fired, what? You can always go do
something like honestly. Like at some level. Like one of the biggest ways I think that I’ve been
able to help my friends and employees like, do things, is just push them very heavily on, what? What will happen? You’ll get fired? Okay. Well that sucks, and that’s bad. Do you have any savings? You know and sometimes
the person’s like, yes. I’m like, you know, and
I’ll really go into it, and I’m like, wait, you have
three years worth of savings. – Totally. – And you’re not trying
to push the envelope? You can get fired and chill
for a year and still be okay. Other people are in debt and they can’t. Maybe you can’t push as hard. But while you’ve decided to
push in your organization, you’re interviewing outwardly, just in case you do get fired. Like, what, what? – Well it’s this idea, and
it almost goes back to, you know, when I was
playing tennis growing up, I was a competitive tennis player, my dad used to always say, ’cause I would be a headcase sometimes. Play to win, don’t play not to lose. And I would get into this
defensive mode where– – That’s what tennis is. I hate being defensive in tennis.
– I would literally be the classic, I’m up five one, and I would lose seven five. – Really?
– Because I would be like, I wouldn’t be thinking, I’d be having fun, I’d be kicking A. – Big shout out to Nate
Schroeder, on my team, who’s led me 5-2 three times, and has lost 7-5 all three times. – But that’s the deal, it’s kind of like, right when you start realizing like, shit, I’m killing this guy right now, and I’m going and I got this, and then I get in my head and I’m like, don’t mess it up, don’t mess it up, and then I change my
strat, I start lobbing. – The whole team’s
pushing me, we got to run. – That’s it, sorry.
– But I got to tell you. No no, you don’t be sorry. – But that’s totally the deal. – They need to be sorry
’cause I got to say this. There’s something crazy about tennis. Out of all, like, I… Out of all the places on earth that I’ve navigated in my life, it’s the only place where
I can get defensive. There’s something crazy
about being up 5-1, and losing that second game, starting to like, visualize the comeback. – Totally.
– Then 5-3 comes. Now you’re serving up 5-3. You should cruise into this. God forbid you lose
that game and it’s 5-4. It’s definitely now 5-5. – The second it gets to 5-4, you’ve lost.
– You understand this? – It’s totally. – Like you’re react, you–
– That’s the deal. – There’s something about–
– It’s so real. – Not even ping pong,
not even other places. Something about that six… – It’s the mental slip,
and so play to win. Not to lose. – Todd, thanks for being on the show. – Hey, thanks dude, appreciate it. – Thanks for everybody listening. We’ll continue with this. See you.
– Thank you.

100 thoughts on “The Strategy Behind Pepsi’s “Challenger” Brand Approach With Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing


    7:00 – How Todd’s career started in college
    13:15 – If you respectfully ask you’re putting yourself in a good position
    19:40 – State of the union of Pepsi vs Coke
    24:30 – Pepsi’s approach to Super Bowl 53
    30:20 – Where do you get your “culture”?
    34:55 – How do you balance an entrepreneur built for speed and an executive with the process?
    37:10 – Life is what you make of it

  2. This is an inspiring interview. I love what Todd and Gary say about how a job description or life in general is an intrepretation. More people need to do this .

  3. I watch all your videos I hope to grow my channel and brand like yourself. Keep the videos coming it really got me out of a tough time. Thank you Gary


  4. One thing I really want to say to you,
    1. You had a family business, yes you grew love for wine and researched towards it and grew better about the same, as well as you developed other skills with digital marketing and social media strategy.
    2. what would you have done if didn't have this business? what would have been your goal? Is it that if you don't know what you really want to, you should simply improve yours skills in every department until the time come?


  6. 1. i'm shocked how little gary interrupted. 2. the marketing ideas they did especially for super bowl is amazing.

  7. Yo Team GaryVee, the audio sounds like it's been doubled – like the audio track has been duplicated and stacked on top of the other one.

    Either that, or it sounds like when you hit a 'slow playback' key in premiere while it's already playing.

    For what it's worth. Still love and appreciate the content, obviously. 🙂

  8. This is a painful interview.. Sorry Gary. You were feeding hime real questions and it constantly felt like he was trying to tell you what you wanted to hear without showing real depth. I'm amazed how some people can speak full paragraphs and not talk about anything that we didn't know.

  9. Haha, the Cola truce "Together is Beautiful" story was the best! Don't drink soda anymore but when I was a kid it was Pepsi all the way.

  10. Do you think with your influence you have a responsibility to not push products that are clearly addictive and detrimental to health of society? Pepsi profits off an addictive product which feeds obesity and diabetes.

  11. Feels kind of like a box tickin' interview.. felt I didn't really learn anything. but that's my problem.. respect the time, questions and the answers given 😉

  12. Guess wat You Big Young Slutty Bitch we older ones are in here also & we will dominate just so, & dont write as off because we are here to stay & we will beat You Big Ugly Young Bitchy ASS!

  13. hey gary veeeee my g. you should talk about weed n why you think smoking really drags you down. bet many people will find it useful

  14. That was a great interview, great insight into lateral thinking from a brand. Impatiently waiting for part 2 lol!

  15. Thanks Gary, just saw you live yesterday. So much value. I took away that I need to be more patient with everything I’m doing. Thanks brother

  16. THIS IS ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG I'm sure…. Gary, I love that you climb mountains with your hands wide open 👐! Those who humble themselves will be exalted!!

    I hope you read this because all I can do is thank you via some lame YouTube comment… You have blessed my life in the last 4 weeks in ways that will have me thankful for you till the day I die!

    I really started to listen to you about two weeks into working for a newspaper (now a month in) that has been around for over 100 years…

    They brought me in to help scale and really launch digital… You have not only validated my passion and heart after entering in, but really blew open the flood gates of possibilities…

    I currently have the resolve to help turn this 🚢 around or die on my 🗡 trying!

    God bless you my brother! And thank you again!!!

    Others > self

  17. This conversation strikes the right cords for me. Listening to Todd describe his journey is like listening a different version of my life journey; I enjoyed it❣️😍

  18. Hey I have a channel can I only just started I will live the support it’s called Team 3 and we will be doing cool vids about 2 a week or more it’s about cool challenges and other stuff pls we are really new!

  19. 8 times over what period of time. Because there are a select handful of people I'd like to just even see a reply from including you and I feel im respectful about it and nothing. I feel I can add value and to be honest it just hasent been successful for me.

  20. Thanks you so much Gary VEEEEEE for your free advice because of you I started my own podcast on YouTube channel and I’m very happy 😃🍿⭐️

  21. THIS IS HOW CORPORATE ADS MEET DIGI MARKETING… GV Team helping PEPSI how to advertise in 2020.. "be at my show, show your human part"….. LOVE IT!

  22. I shit on u every time for interrupting everyone all the time, but I gotta give u props for finally letting someone speak

  23. You interrupt a lot @Gary I feel like sometimes it be better if you let him finish than talk but what do I know

  24. I noticed your wear a Tottenham football “Soccer” shirt, I think you should switch your support to Liverpool instead : – ).

    BTW big fan of your work. Thanks for the great content and especially the slide deck.

  25. I'm 32 and i feel too old to make a good living (and i don't mean rich, just fine). What would you say to me? Please, thanks

  26. I've followed you since 2013 and this is a rare and much appreciated insight! Charlie Rocket said to say things are "easy" and this guys job seems "easy"(no disrespect) and I'm 25. If you need a new worker or intern, I've been reselling for 6 years. Love from New Mexico

  27. garyvee is the best person ever can you all subscribe to me im a biggner and i need soms subs to grow if you sub to me that will help me aloth

  28. Great interview Todd and Gary! I work for PepsiCo and love the company and culture! PepsiCo hires the best talent! This interview makes me proud!

  29. 2 words to reach young guys in the states… Cleetus Mcfarland…. he's a big mountain dew guy.. they always rep the brand in their videos..

  30. Gary You really are the man! You've inspired me to quit my job and make my own money online building my own business! I was talking for so long and I just set up my camera and started to document my journey! Just Start! And I did just that. Currently sitting at 0 subscribers and 0 views I'm motivated to build an audience and make this work. No turning back and double down on my strengths! Thankyou so much Gary for changing my mindset about life and entrepreneurship
    KEEP it up sir!

  31. We All Go Through TOUGH and CHALLENGING situations!! But you have a choice to either 1) Run away and don’t face it🏃🏽‍♂️ or 2) Embrace the Tough Emotion and Go through it!!💪🏽 If you decide to run away it will feel like a relief in the moment, but long term it will do you harm because you will get used to running away😕 BUT through challenge and pain build strength and growth!!📈📚🧠

  32. Even a mastermind marketing genius has a mastermind group to study and grow. I loved how he said "It's what you do with it". It's so amazing to hear these behind the scenes stories. It's very motivating and we all forget even the big guys/gals have to start from somewhere. Thank you for all you do my man! Cheers!

  33. You do awesome videos with the best advice. I been watching your videos a time. Been applying your expert advice for a while now. Follow my YouTube channel and track our progress. I value your input.

  34. GaryVee is the Mannnnnnn. i follow all your advice. im putting in the good work i will be uploading real soon quick

  35. Hi Gary, quick one. How do I as a small niche find my audience as an entirety. I've found a small market but how do I find the rest of my potential audiences. I'm finding it difficult to locate these potential people.

  36. So I know why Gary interrupts: I think he’s the conductor in a way. Sometimes a guest can fall deeply into the truly organic and free flowing nature of the conversations. Gary breaks it up and brings it back to value. The whole time he’s sifting thru what the guest is sharing for the takeaway. I noticed this a while ago and in most videos if you watch with that in mind, you might feel even more appreciation. The best part is if I’m right, he just lets ppl talk shit about it but keeps delivering. So we keep watching. It’s not really an interview – more like an extraction of actionable stuff for the audience plus entertainment.

  37. Pepsi is foul, Mountain Dew is poison and the sheer existence of something called a "water portfolio" indicates that humanity has a long fight ahead of it.

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