From being seen alongside Michael Jackson back in the day to today’s face Salman Khan, Pepsi’s history of siding with the underdog has seen a shift.
Years before it was Michael Jackson who transformed the brand image of Pepsi from a cheaper-than-Coke ‘kitchen cola’ to the ‘choice of a new generation’. In fact, he was the one who gave Pepsi its own word ‘generation’. Some of MJ’s songs have remained the most memorable anthems. One such song is ‘You are the Pepsi generation’ which was sung to the tune of his Grammy-grossing hit song “Billie Jean’. It was in the year 1984 when Pepsi and MJ parted ways giving ways to the subsequent young generation. It was during the shoot of this commercial in the year 1984 when MJ was in a fire accident and started his lifelong addiction to painkillers. MJ at the beginning was considered as an underdog who peaked at success later on.
In India, in the year 2009, Sharukh Khan and John Abraham did a Pepsi commercial in which they were both young teens, representing the new generation. Later on, Ranbir Kapoor signed up for endorsing this brand. It was during this time Pepsi coined the term ‘Youngistaan’ and from the brand point of view, Ranbir Kapoor was a better representation for this new term. SRK’s journey with Pepsi was rather a delightful one. It was the early 90’s when SRK came from the television industry to the film scene. Soon with his looks and acting talents, Sharuk Khan was able to create a place in the heart of the audience. Later he dodged into the category of good looking well build heroes. With getting acceptance from the audience SRK was no more an underdog. Both Pepsi and SRK entered the new mainstream. Pepsi also had tie-ups with many underdog platforms for example Tik-Tok, which is a growing platform in India.
But there also lies a double-bind. Pepsi as such has never failed to attract and work with outliers, but popularity is also a factor that dictates the final decision. For example, Pepsi signed up with Salman Kahn who was never an outlier.