Pepsi is capitalizing on success from past efforts to associate its soda with favorite foods under the “Better with Pepsi” banner. The new push draws on data that shows 72% of national pizza chains serve Pepsi, including Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa John’s and Papa Murphy’s, as well as consumer survey results that suggest about nine in 10 people recommend Pepsi alongside pizza. The soda brand’s pepperoni recipe attempts to cater to these taste preferences by adding a citrusy sweetness via a Pepsi Zero Sugar reduction to the smokey spiciness of traditional pepperoni, the most popular pizza topping, per the release.
Hosting a pop-up event in New York on National Pizza Party Day will likely help Pepsi to generate buzz around its newest iteration of the “Better with Pepsi” platform and could drum up additional attention online as visitors post about their free slice on social media.
Pepsi has invested major marketing muscle over the years in an attempt to build out its reputation as a challenger brand against its chief rival.
Around Memorial Day weekend last year, the soda brand ran print, out-of-home (OOH) and digital ads depicting what appears to be the mascots of Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s enjoying a Pepsi. Similar to this week’s activation, the 2021 campaign also offered a free drink for participating consumers and centered around the idea that classic American foods like burgers and pizza pair better with Pepsi over Coke.
Going further back, the soda maker set up blind taste tests in 1975 and reported most participants preferred the taste of Pepsi to Coke — a campaign that would shape Pepsi’s marketing strategy for years. In a direct shot to Coke, Pepsi last summer urged consumers to “break up” with the rival’s new zero-sugar product, the reformulation of which sparked some backlash on social media. In May 2021, it opened a virtual restaurant that let people select a beverage to see suggested food pairings. The “beverage-first” Pep’s Place aimed to reverse the typical routine of ordering food for delivery and leaving drinks to afterthought.
Splashy activations like Pep’s Place and the National Pizza Party Day pop-up can help to lay the groundwork for longer-term campaigns that span print, OOH, TV and digital channels and boost Pepsi’s bottom line. For its first quarter ending April 26, PepsiCo saw revenues surpass Wall Street’s estimates despite rising costs.