PepsiCo Cuts Through Healthy Snack Noise With Mobile Personalization

Lisa Johnston
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The healthy snack market is a growing — and crowded — one. Editorial credit: melissamn /
The healthy snack market is a growing — and crowded — one. Editorial credit: melissamn /

As personalization becomes table stakes for consumer goods brands, food and beverage giants like PepsiCo are seeking new ways to drive brand engagement thanks to traditional methods losing their luster.

“The global media landscape is changing rapidly,” Kate Brady, PepsiCo North America head of media innovation and partnership development, notes to CGT. “Traditional linear TV is shifting to online and addressable, media funnels are collapsing, and third-party data and cookies are depreciating.”

Brady’s team is tasked with discovering new solutions to mitigate these challenges, and developing 1:1 personalized relationships with consumers in order to tell better stories has become a key component of their strategy. 

[Learn More PepsiCo Strategies in the 2021 Sales & Marketing Report]

“Relationship with the consumer is at the core of everything we do at PepsiCo,” she says. “Though each brand will evoke a different emotion when it comes to personalization at scale, it is fair to say every personalization at scale initiative aims to make our consumer feel individualized and special."

When bringing its new Off the Eaten Path healthy snack line to retail, the company knew it was facing a steep climb in the popular — but crowded — market. The global healthy snack market is expected to be worth $108 billion by 2027, according to Market Research Future, expanding at 4% CAGR.

A survey from CVS Pharmacy conducted by The Harris Poll last year, meanwhile, found that nearly 60% of American adults are choosing better-for-you snacks and meal solutions more often than they would have prior to the pandemic.  

In order to cut through the noise and more quickly and effectively reach consumers, the digital marketing program within PepsiCo Labs, PepsiCo’s technology venturing arm, developed a mobile advertising campaign that generated 250,000 different video variations to test the potential of personalization.

The No. 3 consumer goods company initially teamed with Aki Technologies in Q4 of last year with the objective of proving that personalization can be effective in driving brand engagement for both awareness and consideration. As part of this, the campaign featured customized messaging based on key insights from consumer preferences; doing so drove 4-5x engagement and supplied additional consumer learnings.

“Understanding the consumer signals in turn helps define how and where we work to build relationships and to refine the value we offer back to our community.”
Kate Brady, head of media innovation and partnership development, PepsiCo North America

PepsiCo tested several different interstitial videos geared toward "youthful self-improvers," "wholesome families" and "active retirees, and found that all three audiences were at least twice as likely to engage with a personalized video vs. the non-personalized one.

Personalized rich media drove 110% higher engagement than non-personalized rich media on average, while personalized creative drove 84% higher engagement than non-personalized creative.  

While the program is focused on rapid pilots for proof of concepts in order to enable PepsiCo to prove value, longer-term efforts can help drive further insights with greater optimization efforts, Brady notes. The partnership with Aki has enhanced PepsiCo’s ability to understand real-time consumer behavior, while also expediting its launch timeline to be quicker to market with the personalized messaging.

“Understanding the consumer signals in turn helps define how and where we work to build relationships and to refine the value we offer back to our community,” she says.

[See also: PepsiCo Launching Pepviz Data Science Practice for Retail Partners]

PepsiCo’s brand teams, including the Gatorade, Frito Lay, North American beverage, shopper/e-commerce and multicultural teams, are currently working with Aki, and it aims to expand internally into Latin America.

In offering advice to other consumer goods brands seeking to improve their e-commerce conversions, Brady says continuous testing and being proactive about seeking out innovation opportunities are both key today.

“The landscape is evolving rapidly, and new platforms and technologies are occurring daily,” she says. “It's critical to have a team exploring these opportunities and identifying the best ways to leverage as solutions for existing capability gaps. Our team is 100% dedicated to helping our marketers find those new solutions and help vet them for the organization to ensure we keep an advantage in the marketplace.”

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