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PepsiCo’s Healthy Project in the ‘hood

Here’s an interesting story of a company taking a grassroots approach to market a new product.

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The product: PepsiCo’s Baked Doritos and Baked Lay’s potato chips — an attempt at an image overhaul as the company is often criticized for being one of the top sellers of sugary beverages and high-calorie snacks, therefore contributing to obesity.

The marketing plan: Print campaign featuring Meredith Vieira, co-host of Today Show and a TV campaign featuring a white woman who receives cheers for purchasing Baked Lay’s from an office vending machine. The marketing efforts targeted upper-income, suburban mothers.

The problem: The campaigns weren’t reaching people of color and store owners and managers in the inner city were refusing the product. PepsiCo Chariman, Steve Reinemund, says the company wants to be responsible and promote health and wellness. African-Americans and Latinos comprise a large share of PepsiCo revenue, but are also more likely to opt for less healthy snacks — such as Cola and Cheetos.

The solution: PepsiCo’s sales force is directly marketing its health snacks to retailers in Chicago — either one on one or in larger meetings. The company also plans to build playgrounds, hold seminars on nutrition and exercise, and organize walks outside grocery stores. The test program began in January and will continue through next year. Pepsi has not reported sales performance based on this strategy.

Sources: Diversityinc and The Wall Street Journal

PepsiCo’s public interest efforts are commendable, considering it will take a lot of time and money to convert consumers, yet critics still wonder if it’s simply a ploy to increase its bottom line. What do you think?

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