Studio Ostendo operates in multiple creative fields including photography, design, and education.
PepsiCo's recent rebrand has caught the attention of design enthusiasts and marketers alike. While the new Pepsi brand is visually impressive, it lacks a clear strategy and core values, leaving consumers questioning what Pepsi stands for. In this blog post, we will explore the new Pepsi brand and the process behind its creation.
I should preface this blog post with the admission that I've never been a Pepsi fan (the drink). I've always been a Coca-Cola loyalist. That said, having drank off-brand Colas at my grandparents house through my childhood and given up soda for more than a decade, I stand by my ability to stand back and critique the new Pepsi brand from a neutral stance.
I remember the last Pepsi rebrand thinking, “that’s not going to be enough for what the company needs.” Now, I wasn't sure at the time or educated in design like I am today, but I knew that there was something missing, that there was a mismatch between the half red and blue circle and the word Mark. I also knew that what other companies and competitors were articulating with their brand was much stronger than what Pepsi was. Curious.
Having given up soda and never thinking to work at such a large corporation, I didn't pay much mind to either the Coca-Cola brand nor the Pepsi brand until this latest rebrand hit my newsfeed on LinkedIn.
Fortunately, I've followed Mauro Porcini, the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, for a few years, paying attention to what Pepsi does globally, and what they're doing as an advertisement platform as they continue to grapple with the gridlocked beverage industry and Coca-Cola.
The new Pepsi brand is better, but it's not enough.
From a visual identity perspective, the new Pepsi brand is visually stunning. It brings in the brand's heritage of the red and blue circle with the wordmark Pepsi. The Pepsi wordmark is now tied into that color lockup and can be used as one singular element. The supporting artwork that shows up on trucks, bags, and coolers is also really impressive and much stronger than the previous visual suite. The blue is stronger, and the new renderings and accompanying artwork that follow the circular Pepsi logo mark are all elements that can adapt to a more contemporary design placement, such as screens, watches, semi-trucks, and digital interfaces that automate beverage pouring. All of these elements are visually beautiful and do a great job of balancing the fine act between a corporate identity and one that consumers are going to purchase when they need to market themselves. Any brand that tries to push hoodies needs these elements.
What Pepsi lacks and is not yet prevalent in its new brand is its strategy and its Brand Core. When it comes to Coca-Cola, you can see and visualize what their core belief system is in all their media. They believe in bringing people together—in the hot summer and have barbecues and quinceaneras and water park events where people are drinking Coke together. They have Thanksgiving and holiday meals where families are gathered around a table sharing a Coke or passing a bottle opener. Coca-Cola speaks about its beliefs and shows in its brand and advertising the world that it wants to create as a beverage company.
With this Pepsi rebrand, we've seen it on merchandise, logistics objects, and corporate promotions, but nowhere along the lines has it given us any idea of what its belief system is, other than to conform with a new digital marketing environment. People attach to brands that have a clear vision of the future they want to create and have a value system that they navigate by.
Now, this visual identity will certainly last longer than previous Pepsi rebrands. It's not a million dollar mark that is inflated by poor theory and mental masturbation. It is a mark that's visually balanced, that transcends time—somehow managing to pull in the visual language of the 1970s and at the same time projecting itself into the 2030s, 40s and beyond. But it is a visual identity without conceptual and meaningful substance.
In a personal post on LinkedIn, Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, shared the process of how this new Pepsi can came to be. He talks about going through hundreds of different iterations of cans and having one land on his desk in early 2021. It remained there until this current brand launch.
Porcini tells the story of how a Pepsi rebrand wasn't even a thought at Pepsi corporate. During zoom calls, however, he'd share the series of new visuals with PepsiCo stakeholders just to test their reactions and to see if they liked it.
While all credit is due to the formal qualities of this Pepsi brand, again, lovely, this model of design ushers in a dangerous precedent for why companies do rebrands and the values that companies get out of them. The process that has been shared is one that's all visual. It's all opinion-based, and it's done for the sake of something that looks new.
While I appreciate this rebrand and the visuals that it comes with (and fully expect to see people in Pepsi hoodies) I'm not sure that anyone will become a diehard Pepsi fan—there's nothing to sink your teeth into, nothing ideologically to latch on to, and no movement to get behind. Let’s call this rebrand a re-gilding process instead.
I myself, admittedly still prefer the taste of Coca Cola, but also still prefer the Coca Cola brand—it's able to show off what it values, the vision that it has for its future, and the ideals it has as a company which Pepsi has gilded over and ultimately fallen short on.
So congrats on a new beautiful visual identity and certainly revel in the sun for having elevated the imagery of Pepsi but I don't think the brand will gain any long term traction or benefit from an un-substantive eye-candy change.
The new design showcases a bold typeface, signature pulse and an updated color palette, including the color black highlighting the brand's commitment to Pepsi Zero Sugar. — PepsiCo Brand Announcement