I have a lot of respect for Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi. She has done a lot to help the brand and grow the business of Pepsi. The video above was on CNBC the other day. It was a feel good story of the introduction of the Pepsi Refresh Project. This is a social giving initiative in which Pepsi is putting up $20 million dollars and allowing everyone to vote on which initiatives will receive a cut of the money. It is a great idea and I am sure the money will assist many charities in need. I know I plan to vote each month. But the interview took an interesting turn that I think is a learning experience for many of us. Here is what happened:
At 2:00 minutes the CNBC host, Mark Haines asks if Pepsi will always be in second place to Coke. Ms. Nooyi gives a good response regarding the diverse nature of the Pepsi brand, including Frito Lay, Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Tropicana, etc. This leads to a conversation about the recent rebranding of Gatorade, basically moving back to what it was founded on, a sports drink. This is where it gets interesting to me. She then points out that Gatorade is a drink for the “athlete to be used in active thirst.” She states for a period of time people defined active thirst as sitting on the couch watching TV because they loved the taste of Gatorade. She went on to explain that when the economy took the down turn, those casual drinkers could not afford the brand. After stating this she said in an emphatic way, ‘Thank God.” They are now taking Gatorade back to the core user and innovating the product for the active user. Mark Haines goes on to ask if they are going to post guards to prevent couch potatoes from buying the brand. Ms. Nooyi responded that couch potatoes are welcome to buy the brand provided they get out and exercise, then they can have the drink.
Now I wish I was more active, but I tend to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, working or watching the kids. I am sorry Ms. Nooyi would not welcome me as a Customer. I was a good one, especially with the large powdered Gatorade I have in my pantry (I wonder if Ms. Nooyi would refund the cost since she does not want me to have it?) My original point for this post was to show how easy it is for someone to accidentally say something that could upset long time Customers. I have been a long time drinker of Gatorade, in what seems like a galaxy far far away, I played tennis with my best friend Jason. After a few matches I would really enjoy a large Gatorade (Jason, we should do that again in the spring!). But I think there is a larger point in that the Customer is really the one who defines that brand, not marketing research, CEO or anyone else. If a Customer likes the product, the company should just be grateful to have them.
I am sorry Ms. Nooyi if you do not want me to be a Customer of Gatorade. Actually I am sure she does, and this was more poor word choice, but you can see how that impression can be created.