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PepsiCo Refreshes Digital and Brand Innovation at SXSW

Launching Doritos’ new “Jacked” product line via a giant vending machine isn’t the only thing PepsiCo has been up to at SXSW. The CPG giant, and its brands, have been all over Austin this past week.

“What I love about SXSW is it’s a place where culture breaks — and specifically digital culture,” Josh Karpf, PepsiCo’s Global Director of Digital and Social Media, told brandchannel.

“We get to see the latest technologies 12-18 months before they hit the consumer consciousness. We’re getting it earlier which makes it a key part of the calendar.”

It’s PepsiCo’s fourth year at SXSW and its corporate and brand presence is larger than ever with four of its “billion-dollar” brands on-site, including festival novice Doritos plus SXSW veterans Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Brisk.

[Sheila Shayon, BrandChannel] SXSW attendees could interact with PepsiCo at every turn. The company has hosted numerous brainstorms (via its “What If” unconference) led by digital luminaries; posted interactive data through its Zeitgeist screen; introduce a social vending machine and digital cooler with a sampling bar that features “beverage innovation flavors and core beverage flavors”; and allowed attendees to share their notes and doodles via Livescribe with all of SXSW.

Also happening at PepsiCo Central in Austin, attendees can sample different PepsiCo products and use some of them as instruments on a “Boombox” (fashioned from a case of soda) via an iPhone application called PepsiCo Hi-Fi (soon to be available on the Apple App Store). For the first time, PepsiCo arranged in-store promotions at more than 150 local retailers around Austin and San Antonio, Texas, during SXSW.

“PepsiCo has always been about innovation and we are tapping into that spirit at SXSW. We’ve been asking SXSW-goers to join us for our PepsiCo What If Unconference, a series of structured brainstorms moderated by various digital thought leaders and conducted in our PepsiCo Central Station space in the Austin Convention Center,” said Karpf, whose predecessor at PepsiCo, B. Bonin Bough, recently joined Kraft to head up its digital and social marketing strategy.

What If? hosts include Jessica Hagy, founder of Indexed, the popular visual scribe blog, and Matthew C. Brimer, Co-Founder of General Assembly, the co-working meets academic campus for digital start-ups in New York’s Flatiron district, and others. Specific brainstorm prompts have been teased daily on Bloomberg and on digital/social media. “With PepsiCo’s What If? Unconference, and throughout the festival, we’re looking to gather input from attendees and explore new ways to drive digital forward,” said Karpf.

The topics on PepsiCo’s agenda in the brainstorming sessions are digital solutions for making and interacting with products, using Big Data to create consumer benefit, and leveraging talent. “The ideas being talked about and visualized are not only impressive, but inspiring,” he added. “We’ve seen a great response from attendees to our brainstorm sessions, Zeitgeist social-media ticker board, Livescribe data feed of doodles and notes and are excited to be here at SXSW in a major way this year.”

Some of the Unconference responses so far:

Question: What if digital technology could change how products are made?
• Making customized objects on demand could fulfill immediate needs globally and increase satisfaction.
• Reduced costs in 3D printing could change the way products are stored and shipped.
• Vending machines could print packaging right in the machine.
• The next generation of engineers will think in a wholly different way about the products that they can make.

Question: What if digital puts talent in the driver’s seat?
• Whiteboards would be everywhere, to foster creativity.
• Make-a-thons, where employees solve real problems in marathon sessions, would become commonplace.
• If talent is in control, they will care more deeply about their work, and outperform others.
• With the web, great talent can do and build anything. It’s leveling the playing field.

Question: What trends in Big Data that will change consumer engagement are coming into existence right now @ SXSW?
• Everyday objects, from household appliances to food products, will become social devices that integrate and adapt to our needs.
• The hive mind will help us separate wisdom from madness, balancing knowledge of specialists and generalists.
• Consumers will take a more active role in managing their own data relationships – and trust will be key.

As SXSW is a launching pad for the people and companies driving digital innovation, it’s also where PepsiCo announced the expansion of its digital incubator program – PepsiCo10. This year, PepsiCo10 heads to India and Brazil, both key growth markets for PepsiCo and countries bubbling with digital energy and talent. Designed to discover and support emerging technology companies, PepsiCo10 has already seen several successful pilot marketing programs with PepsiCo brands including Brisk and Quaker in the United States and Walkers in the UK.

As for the trending topic of Big Data, Karpf said his company is “in the learning phase” and regarding talent, “we need a digitally skilled workforce.” PepsiCo also announced at SXSW expansion of digital incubator PepsiCo10 to India and Brazil, both teeming with talent” according to Karpf, who also chatted with ClickZ at the conference.