PepsiCo announced on Friday that it would no longer use an ingredient in Gatorade in response to an online petition that attracted more than 200,000 signatures from 15 year old Sarah Kavanagh.

When it comes to building relationships with consumers, social media has become a pivotal component, and we as marketers often talk about how the consumer ultimately is the owner of the brand message within these channels. As I like to say, the ultimate compliment to any brand is to allow the consumer to be the ‘programmer of your network’. When you think about it, no matter how large the marketing budget of the brand, it cannot drown out the voice of the consumer. In other words, your consumer’s voice actually ‘outspends’ your brand – so embrace it.

But this goes beyond marketing. We have always spoken in context of marketing and brand influence, but we have yet to realize that the conversation actually allows the consumer to influence the development of the product itself. I am convinced that this is just the beginning. Pepsico made the fatal mistake of announcing that the ingredient that is being removed from Gatorade, brominated vegetable oil, which is actually banned as a food ingredient in Japan and the European Union, will actually remain in some of its other large brands like Mountain Dew – I cannot wait until the fans get hold of that one! Studies suggest possible side effects include neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones.

Here’s the deal, we all have much more information at our fingertips these days. Brand owners in both the product and marketing departments need to stop talking down to their consumers and embrace them as true partners. Realize that the consumer has a stake and interest in the development and evolution of product and not just the message.

Now lets see if we can create something meaningful together.
Link to the complete article in the New York Times: PepsiCo Will Halt Use of Additive in Gatorade

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