Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2011 (Revised August 2013)

The Pepsi Refresh Project: A Thirst for Change

by Michael I. Norton and Jill Avery


In 2010, for the first time in 23 years, PepsiCo did not invest in Superbowl advertising for its iconic brand. Instead, the company diverted this $20 million to the social media-fueled Pepsi Refresh Project: PepsiCo's innovative cause-marketing program in which consumers submitted ideas for grants for health, environmental, social, educational, and cultural causes. Consumers voted for their favorite ideas, and PepsiCo funded the winners in grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. The case highlights the benefits and risks of traditional branding and social media branding, including a discussion of how the Pepsi Refresh Project fits with Pepsi's previous brand positioning. The case discussion focuses on how the brand team should evaluate the initiative's return on investment (from sales to social media engagement), whether they should continue the initiative for 2011, and whether Pepsi is the right brand for this kind of initiative.

Keywords: Risk Management; Marketing Strategy; Customer Focus and Relationships; Advertising Campaigns; Investment Return; Brands and Branding; Marketing Communications; Social Marketing; Cost vs Benefits; Food and Beverage Industry;


Norton, Michael I., and Jill Avery. "The Pepsi Refresh Project: A Thirst for Change." Harvard Business School Case 512-018, September 2011. (Revised August 2013.)