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PepsiCo to spend more on TV and digital in revamped marketing strategy, says Tarun Bhagat of PepsiCo

In a conversation with, Tarun Bhagat, Director, Marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India shares the overall marketing strategy of the company. He talks about the impact of Covid-19 and expectations from the festive season

Tarun Bhagat

PepsiCo has recalibrated its overall marketing plan and is now focusing more on digital and TV to reach out to customers, said Tarun Bhagat, Director, Marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India.

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“During the last few months, we recalibrated our marketing plans with spends on digital and TV mediums being higher than what we had originally planned for. However, we are confident that with people stepping outside their homes now as opposed to a few months earlier, out-of-home touch points are coming back into play,” he said.

In terms of platforms, he said there has been a significant increase in the use of in-home media as a direct result of people staying indoors for the last few months. TV viewership has climbed but digital consumption, including social media and streaming platforms, has grown at an ever-faster pace.

He said, “We believe television will always have a part to play in our media strategies. We have always allocated significant spends to TV as it helps us reach audiences across India. While our focus has been directed towards digital and mobile now, it does not eliminate TV for us. Our marketing strategy will see a harmony between TV and digital/mobile platforms alike.”

With outdoor promotions, and on-ground events taking a backseat, it shifted its focus and worked to create relevant messaging for in-home platforms such as social media and streaming platforms.

With the lockdown impacting consumption across most media vehicles, he believes it was important for PepsiCo to adapt to the behavioural shift among consumers and communicate with them in a manner that is value-oriented, educational and compassionate, and on platforms that were most relevant to them during the lockdown.

“We had to make certain changes to our media pie, to ensure that we are focusing on the right channels of communication,” he said.

The company will continue to monitor the content consumption patterns of the consumers — what, where and how would they like to be engaged and what they can relate to.

And given these parameters, it will keep innovating its plans.

Talking about the festive season, Bhagat said given how the festive season provides an incremental opportunity to engage with customers and consumers, it is an important time for the company.

However, he said, that one must recognise that this year, the festive season will be a lot different.

The backdrop of the global pandemic and ensuing economic environment will mean the season will not be the same as “normal.”

He said it is also a fact that the festive spirit does uplift the spending sentiments, even though it might be a little muted this year.

“One is cautiously optimistic that there would be an increase in the overall uptake compared to previous months,” he said.

Pepsi in the past has always been associated with platforms that consumers strongly connect with such as cricket, music and Bollywood.

Talking about its association with IPL, he said, “We have associated with cricket in the past and will continue to build touch points and create unique consumer experiences around the sport in the future.”

Apart from this, Bhagat said that for the initial weeks post the lockdown, brands were observing consumer behaviour in a bid to understand how marketing strategies would need to be changed.

People were starting to evaluate and rebuild their beliefs and lives, and so, it became more important for brands to leverage this period to reassess their value propositions and reimagine their offerings.

As patterns of increased digital and social media consumption emerged, brands moved quickly to ensure they were present on all relevant platforms.

Crafting communication as per the 'new normal'

Bhagat said it has become important for brands to demonstrate an understanding of consumer needs and match it with delivering value.

Therefore, PepsiCo India had conducted a research on the shift in consumption behaviours during this period and narrowed down the three key things that consumers are looking for from brands. First was hope—brands need to be empathic and craft messages that are reassuring to consumers in these unprecedented times. Second is trust —with uncertainty all around, consumers now more than ever want to trust the brands they are consuming. And third, with people choosing to stay indoors and devise new ways to keep themselves occupied, brands that can present people with fun and creative ways to express themselves are the ones that will emerge as winners.

He said, “It is imperative that brands work to retain the trust factor. Now more than ever, consumers need to see brands walk the talk in everything they do – whether it is the core product promise, or a pledge made to support communities during this time. People are looking for ways to express themselves and it is on brands to give them that opportunity to engage and feel creative. We anticipate us to continue focusing on these three pillars, at least for the foreseeable future as we settle into the new normal.”

Being a youth-centric brand, it has with its recent campaigns been catering to the masses in these unusual times.

It has tweaked its communication in a way that would make the recent purpose-driven campaigns relatable for everyone and reach maximum people not just across the nation, but also across the globe.

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