Brand Strategy

A conversation with Pepsi's CMO about its 125th anniversary

The brand is kicking off a 125-part campaign to celebrate its birthday and help introduce its new logo.
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· 3 min read

PepsiCo has done a lot of promotion in its 125 years, from iconic ads to sports sponsorships to music marketing.

Perhaps that’s why, when it came time to begin preparing for Pepsi’s 125th anniversary on Aug. 28, the marketing team couldn’t settle on just one activation.

Instead, Pepsi is running 125 different programs over 125 days leading up to New Year’s Eve, including opening a diner in New York City that embraces nostalgia while also promoting some of the newer elements of the brand.

“Pepsi and diners have been inextricably linked for years,” CMO Todd Kaplan told Marketing Brew. “We thought this was a great way to kick things off by letting consumers experience an immersive restaurant experience…bringing to life some of the best pop culture moments from Pepsi, some of the best culinary and beverage components of Pepsi, all together in one really unique experience.”

Past: Diners have indeed shown up time and time again in Pepsi’s marketing materials, from the “Pepsi Girl” ad of the ’90s to the brand’s “Is Pepsi OK?” 2019 Super Bowl campaign. Kaplan also pointed to “The Olympia Restaurant” SNL skit about a diner that only serves cheeseburgers, chips, and, of course, Pepsi.

The Pepsi 125 Diner serves more than that, including limited-edition flavors from the past like Crystal Pepsi and Pepsi-Cola Soda Shop, as well as newer atrocities delicacies like Colachup and Pilk. It’ll be open from Oct. 19-25, seating patrons for two-hour reservations for $50 each, which includes three courses plus drinks.

To measure ROI, Kaplan said his team is tracking sign-ups for the waitlist and plans to gauge sentiment among those who snag seats. The experience will be “very Instagrammable,” he said, so social shares will also contribute to determining its success.

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“The new way to build brand experiences isn’t just for the people on site, but it’s to make sure they can become a megaphone for broader people on digital and social,” Kaplan said.

Present: In addition to celebrating the brand’s anniversary, the overarching campaign is meant to usher in Pepsi’s new logo and visual identity, which was announced in March but didn’t officially start to roll out until this month. Internally, it’s been in the works for more than four years, Kaplan said.

The new look is front and center in a new round of commercials set to start airing across linear and digital channels in the fall.

Future: After a “serendipitous moment” in a brainstorming session where Kaplan and his team realized there’s exactly 125 days between the brand’s anniversary on Aug. 28 and the end of the year, they committed to the 125 activations, he said. There will be more events, content on social media, and giveaways all related to Pepsi’s history.

One giveaway is happening on the 28th, with more to come, according to Pepsi. Media partnerships are also “a big part of this,” Kaplan said, such as the brand’s takeover of People Magazine planned for September. Music, sports, and entertainment will be fixtures of the campaign as well, he said, including an NFL component.

“Music and pop culture in general has been such a big part of Pepsi’s DNA for the past 125 years,” Kaplan said. “There's a number of different areas and things to pull from as we look to celebrate 125 years…There’s going to be a lot of really fun things coming down the pipe.”

Correction 8/30/23: The Pepsi diner will be open until October 25; this piece has been updated to reflect.

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