Thinking Work

Old fizz in a New Bottle: Will Pepsi’s New Bottle Change its Fortunes?

April 1, 2013

By Lulu Raghavan

Pepsi is introducing a new look for its product packaging across its line up of carbonated drinks – Pepsi, Pepsi Max, and Pepsi Next. This is the first time in 17 years that the brand has revisited the structure of its bottles.

The new 16 oz and 20 oz bottles have a contoured shape with a swirled grip towards the bottom, making them easier to grip. The label is shorter, revealing more of the beverage. And Pepsi’s globe logo (which was updated in 2008) is more enlarged on the label.

As with all recent brand changes by global brands, this one, too, is sure to have a mixed response. Advocates will agree with the company’s logic for the new solution and compliment the company for a bold, new path forward. Opponents will decry the new look and criticize the company for making a big mistake. The majority simply won’t care.

In my experience as head of Landor (India) I have access to, and am privy to case studies in packaging redesign that have worked and I use a few to illustrate it.

What matters most for Pepsi is whether or not this packaging innovation will enhance brand equity and increase sales. Both are badly needed to reverse the decline in volumes in North America that the brand has been facing in recent years, specifically against arch rival Coke.

The jury is out on the business impact of this change. The new packaging won’t hit shelves till next month in the United States and perhaps even much later across the world. However, what is clear is that Pepsi has gone about the rebranding process in the right way. Any consumer goods marketer contemplating a packaging makeover would benefit from studying Pepsi’s brand-led approach to transformation.

Start with a big brand idea

Pepsi’s journey towards a stronger, emotional connection with consumers started with a key insight that informed a new DNA – Pepsi fans around the world desire to capture the excitement of now. This led to the big idea of “Live for now” which has become the foundation for all its brand activities. The advantage of this approach is that it focuses efforts to create brand differentiation, relevance, saliency and consistency. All touch points of the brand will then work in cohesion to communicate the desired brand idea.


Landor capitalized on the main icon of the Evian identity, the French Alps, by making the bottle an ice-like sculpture of a mountain.

Structure, then graphics

In approaching the packaging (the first significant touch point of its new redesigned system), Pepsi chose to lead with the structural design of the bottle. This gave them to opportunity to find the perfect shape that best brought to life the playfulness, youthfulness and slight edginess that the brand wished to communicate. The bottle structure, which is easy to grip and grab portrays supreme confidence at shelf. Many companies choose a shape for technical or commercial reasons alone and tend to ignore brand principles. This then leads to a situation where the label has to work that much harder, which is not always easy from a graphic design perspective.

When the structure is the perfect fit for the DNA (and meets other technical and commercial constraints), the ability of the brand to create desire and motivate purchase at shelf is that much more enhanced. A differentiated structural design has the power to attract attention and encourage consumers to pause and take a look.


The packaging redesign for the iconic U.K. cupboard staple was a success: The brand increased 12 percent in value 52 weeks year-on-year as a direct result of higher sales and Heinz remains the clear leader of the 323 million U.K. beans market with a 62.2 percent share.

Simplicity that stands out

We live in a hyper-communicated world and so Pepsi’s label redesign is a good move in the direction of greater simplicity and minimalism. It shows off more of the stuff inside, creating greater appetite appeal albeit only for hardcore carbonated beverage fans! The design is not heavy or stuffy like labels can sometimes be. This creates a greater possibility for consumers to engage with the brand and have it live in their environment. The enlarged globe logo will create more shelf-stand-out through greater visibility and allow consumers to easily find their favourite Pepsi product amidst the sea of cola drinks in the retail environment.

First moment of truth comes first

Pepsi recognizes that winning at the point of purchase is most important and that’s why the redesign has been applied to the packaging first and will then be carried across trucks, coolers and other touch points. The first moment of truth (P&G’s term for that vital point at which the brand interacts with the consumer in the store) has never been more critical than today when consumers are literally spoilt for choice in every category. How the brand presents itself to shoppers in the less than 3 seconds they spend looking at it can literally make or break purchase decisions.


Research confirms the new look inspires smiles: customers feel a strong connection with the refreshed packaging of Kraft Macaroni &Cheese

Test solutions

All we know about Pepsi’s redesign is that it was “vigourously” tested with consumers. Without more insights into the methodology, it’s hard to quantify the rigour behind the vigour. It’s important to state here though that packaging testing plays an important role in making bold design decisions that will resonate with consumers and drive the business forward. But testing should never be about how much consumers like or dislike the packaging. Or to have the consumer choose the best option just because the management can’t decide. Packaging research should be about assessing proposed package designs against business and communication objectives, relative to other design options.

Like I mentioned earlier, only time will tell whether Pepsi has got it right or not. However, their systematic brand-led approach does give FMCG marketers several pointers and drink for thought about the importance of packaging and how to go about a packaging redesign, the right way.


This blog was originally published by First Post (April 2013).

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