Beyond #PepTrends with Bonin Bough of Pepsi Co & Marian Salzman of Porter Novelli

On April 1, 2009 Pepsi rocked the Twitter community with their Peptrends Campaign. Using the hashtag #peptrends, almost 2,000 tweets were exchanged between PepsiCo’s top communicators, the press, twitter users and Porter Novelli’s Marian Salzman. PepsiCo’s goal was to show that they are an open, collaborative company by inviting the outside in and taking the inside out. They also wanted to show that they are a pioneer of social media. The fast-paced conversation covered a range of topics—Total Convergence, Local versus Global, and Social Media (and its impact on business, relationships and privacy) were just a few.

I had the opportunity to interview Bonin Bough of PepsiCo and Marian Salzman of Porter Novelli about PepTrends and social media in general. Bonin Bough is the Global Director of Digital and Social Media at PepsiCo and Marian Salzman is the CMO at Porter Novelli and one of the top five trendspotters in the world.

“The goal [of peptrends] was really to illustrate how in today’s world of radical transparency you have to be open, honest, you have to work in real time, you have to share ideas and be ready to take instant feedback from anyone, anyplace, on any topic.” Marian explained. She continued on to say how working with PepsiCo, her original idea grew into something much bigger and better than it originally started. Pepsi has been involved in many things to show that it is a modern company actively involved in being a part of the ever evolving culture.

Peptrends was the first known campaign of its kind. “Anything you learn is a great learning,” Bonin comments on the results. “By no means do we have a monopoly on great ideas or great thinking, but it [PepTrends] showed [us] how many people are interested in having open communication with us. I think we will have another peptrends campaign with different topics.”

Marian feels “Pepsi learned the power of open communication.”

Social media creates an environment of transparency that was never completely available to companies before. Marian describes this perfectly with “[Now] you can have ‘frienemies,’ really friendly enemies. These are people who disagree with you but will grow to respect you simply because you have opened the door and said you will be engaged in an open ‘trialog.’ Not a monolog or dialog, but a trialog. I want to be open and honest with you. You may not like what I am going to say, but I want to hear what you are going to turn around and say to your neighbor.”

With social media, companies no longer need to wait to see what kind of results they will get from a campaign. Campaigns can now be tweaked and improved for maximum results along the way, providing them with an environment for experimentation. Bonin explained PepsiCo’s approach to social media: “All experimentation is good experimentation. We double down on the ducks that we hit and save the learning from those that were not as explosive, big or connecting as we thought.” “Everything is successful, right! Whether you win, lose, or draw you showed up to run.”

Social media does have its restrictions and weaknesses. “Social media needs more proof points of success.” Bonin comments about what he sees as a weakness of social media. The flexibility and instant accessibility add new metrics to measuring marketing with no defined way of accomplishing this.

Marian points out another big weakness: “Social media needs more variety. It’s the same leaders with the same followers with the same people presenting at conferences.” So while companies think they are reaching a broader audience, quicker and more effectively, they are really reaching the same audience as their competition and becoming lost in the muck called advertising. Isn’t the point of marketing and advertising your company to stand out and do something different?

When trying to compensate for social media’s weaknesses, there are several pitfalls to avoid. Marian points out, “Leaving social media in the hands of the very young is the worst mistake companies make.” Yes the younger crowd may be quicker to pick it up and figure it out, but there is wisdom that comes with experience. Paying people to tweet for you is a big mistake Marian is quite passionate about: “If I read one more paid tweet, I think I am going to throw-up! I can sniff out a paid tweet.” The purpose of social media is to listen and respond in a personal voice. Paying someone to do this for you defeats this purpose and will backfire. That said, she continues, “Each and everyone has made mistakes. So What! Move on! ”

Moving on to the future of social media, Marian feels “In the future I think we will all be connected 24/7/365 and the people who do not have that kind of work ethic are going to be left in the dust. I think there is going to be a world of technology ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ and that is going to be the new socio-economic crisis. It is not going to be about having the cash; it is going to be about having the access to the kind of energy you need to be on 24/7.”

How will that change your business and how you market it?

Christine Perkett Creates Virtual Work Before It Was Common Place
Interview with Bonin Bough of Pepsi Co & Marian Salzman of Porter Novelli