Sunit Roy

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

In an ad titled 'Har Ghooth Mein Swag', clearly designed to target millennials, Pepsi recycles 1950s funda of jeans as a symbol of rebellion.

There is no garment as widely embraced, loved and worn as denim 'Jeans'. What was once considered a classic symbol of the American West is now a staple in everyone's wardrobe. In the 19th century, jeans were first manufactured as workwear for labourers of America's Western states. With time people adopted them as casual wear. They then became a symbol of rebellion - the spirit captured by the likes of Marlon Brando in 'The Wild One' (1953), and James Dean in 'Rebel Without a Cause' (1955).

Now, what if a beverage brand portrays jeans or 'casual wear', as a symbol of rebellion for youth in its marketing communication? Pepsi, the popular beverage marketed by PepsiCo, has released an ad campaign through which it attempts to convey the message that wearing jeans/casual wear in a college campus is not wrong; rather, it's a symbol of style for millennials and that every college-goer has the right to dress that way.

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

#HarGhoontMeinSwag: Pepsi's latest campaign

Through its latest #HarGhoontMeinSwag campaign, Pepsi celebrates the spirit of the new generation. The TVC opens with a bunch of students protesting the principal's notice announcing a dress code - 'NO CAP, NO JACKET, NO T-SHIRT, NO JEANS'. One of the students, Pepsi bottle in hand, decides to challenge this, but in a rather round-about way by removing his clothes to comply with the rule.

Naturally, the principal stops him before he can remove his jeans, pulls off the notice and begins to walk away defeated. And so, the brand attempts to target Gen-Z consumers, in the age group of 18-24, through its latest marketing initiative.

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Tarun Bhagat

"This summer, Pepsi is acknowledging and celebrating a word that defines today's millennials - SWAG. 'Har Ghoont Mein Swag' is all about living in the moment, seizing new and interesting opportunities and doing it all with swag," says, Tarun Bhagat, director-marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India.

The entire Pepsi model is built on two parts - fame and crave. Fame is what the brand wants to give youth, while crave is about driving product sensorials during summer. Further, the focus is on leveraging both fixed and fluid moments throughout the year while there are concerted efforts to tap into key moments during a youth's life.

Wunderman Thompson conceptualised and created the campaign that resonates with youth. The TVC has been produced by Pari Films while Vivek Kakkad has directed it.


The campaign was launched last week. The TVC will be aired nationally over the course of summer this year. There is also a 360-degree marketing rollout in place through which the brand is activating consumer passions such as music, sports, Bollywood as well as 'away from home' consumer hangouts - such as Domino's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, and PVR.

Packaging is the first point of contact for consumers with the brand and 'Swag' will be interpreted on the brand's strongest asset, the iconic blue bottles and cans. Pepsi will also be the SWAG partner on 'The Voice' - a reality music show that premiered recently on StarPlus - over summer.

The brand will even bring together two of India's most loved activities - music and cricket - by having one popular performer announce the 'SWAGSTAR OF THE MATCH' award after each match in the on-going India vs Australia series. Popular rapper Naezy announced Jason Behrendorff as the 'SWAGSTAR OF THE MATCH' during the championship's first match in Vizag.

The new campaign will also see collaborations with new age heartthrobs like Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani, whom the brand also leveraged on Valentine's Day.

Taking the usual route

Time and again, the brand has played the rebel factor in its communications. Here's a look at some of the campaigns released by Pepsi in the past:

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Pepsi Commercial - We Will Rock You (feat. Britney Spears, Beyonce, Pink & Enrique Iglesias)

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Bhaag #OHYESABHI released in 2014

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

'Pepsi thi pi gaya, 2' Released in 2015

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Pepsi commercial starring Kendal Jenner

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

'Pepsi Thi, Kaun Pi Gaya?' ad released in 2017

Over to the experts

Millennials today are exposed to a plethora of content. They pay attention to brands which have a personality and speak about the things which are most relevant to them. We thus asked the experts if the campaign will turn out to be a challenger for Pepsi in the days ahead.

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Navonil Chatterjee

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Shekhar Mhaskar

Pepsi's 'Swag' spot makes denims a symbol of rebellion again

Kaizad Pardiwalla

Navonil Chatterjee, joint president - Rediffusion Brand Solutions, says that it's good to see the brand displaying the same irreverent attitude toward authority figures which made it tick in the first place. "It's great to see Pepsi rolling out a mass market TV campaign. For an old-timer like me who has grown up on 'Nothing official about it', 'Mera number kab aayega' and 'Yeh dil maange more', there is a lot of nostalgia with Pepsi advertising. So, 'welcome back' is what I would say. But is the brand's TG watching TV anymore? Not sure about that."

According to Chatterjee, the ironic thing about this ad is that while it is developed for today's millennials, in many ways, it is about Pepsi returning to its roots. "Pepsi was the brand that would usually be the first to reflect pop culture and sometimes even shape it; the use of the word 'swag' is an attempt at that. I expect the word to be used and subsequently abused by many other brands in the days to come," he says.

Shekhar Mhaskar, EVP, Isobar India, opines that today's youth is more cognizant of cause-led campaigns. They are rebellious for a cause, not vanity.

He says, "In today's day and age, it's not about a strong lineage of a brand coming out with a campaign like this that resonates with the TG. It is the swag in the content that makes the impact, irrespective of the brand."

He adds, "This TVC might be sticky for a brief while because it comes from Pepsi (denim is a blind spot anyway) after a long time. In the larger scheme of things, the TG's attention is volatile and will move to any other communication from any other brand that lures them away."

Kaizad Pardiwalla, president and chief operating officer - The 120 Media Collective, believes that "Har Ghoont Mein Swag", as a thought, has legs and this execution too, is a very different take from what any of the others are doing, so Pepsi will surely stand out amongst the other cola ads.

As far as execution is concerned, Pardiwalla says, "Today's youth is fairly vocal about what they believe in and make their voice heard. Pepsi has leveraged that insight quite successfully."

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