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Pepsi Max - Hit and miss

PepsiCo launched Pepsi Max, last year, zero-calorie, no-sugar cola, in India. The new drink is targeted at 25-35 year old urban young adults. It was time, decided the company, to move on justifying the addition of yet another zero-calorie cola in its kitty. 'Maximum kick, no sugar,' screamed the tagline.

PepsiCo launched Pepsi Max, last year, zero-calorie, no-sugar cola, in India. The new drink is targeted at 25-35 year old urban young adults. It was time, decided the company, to move on justifying the addition of yet another zero-calorie cola in its kitty. 'Maximum kick, no sugar,' screamed the tagline.

The brand was first introduced in the UK, followed by a launch in Italy in 1993 and since then has been introduced over 40 countries. Abroad, Pepsi Max, competes with Coke Zero, Coca-Cola's no-sugar variant, which is yet to enter India.

Currently, it is Thums Up that continues to lead the Rs 10,000-crore carbonated soft drink market, followed by Pepsi, Sprite and Coca-Cola. Brand consultants, however, are of the opinion that Pepsi's tryst at expanding its consumer base led to confusion in the way the brand is positioned as the brand calls itself a 'young brand', since it is already aimed at the young.

The company launched a 360-degree campaign, but failed to create any impact with its new television commercial, an adaptation of an international TVC running in the US. Produced by JWT, the TVC did not create much noise for the brand. Similarly, the company launched an outdoor campaign comprising building wraps, huge Pepsi Max bottles visible at high traffic zones and youth hangouts. In addition to in-store activation, Pepsi Co India also conducted experiential sampling.

Why did it fail to capture attention? One of the reasons cited is that in many international markets Pepsi Max is sold as a substitute to Pepsi. Thus the company has to be clear with the fact that which brand it wants to retain and which to phase out. With Diet Pepsi already present in the market, the addition of Max, which has only been launched in Delhi and NCR region, does not make much dent in the category. It, in fact, leads to further confusion amongst consumers.

According to an industry observer, "The diet category is less than one per cent of the total volume produced in India. Further, 'Diet' is a very metro phenomenon. The consumer in the rest of the country is hardly bothered and mostly consumes original Pepsi or Coke. Also, in the diet category it is Diet Coke which is leading the market."

By introducing Pepsi Max, the company has continued its hit and trial plan, as Pepsi Co India had done in 2003 when just before the Cricket World Cup, it had launched Pepsi Blue, which failed miserably and was eventually pulled out of the market.

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