Two major consumer product brands long stuck in second place are enlisting famous names and faces in their fight to make headway against powerful leaders in the soft-drink and beer industries.
Pepsi-Cola Co. and Miller Brewing Co. unveiled their new advertising campaigns in separate meetings with their distributors Thursday. Soul singer Aretha Franklin will headline new "Joy of Cola" ads for the Pepsi brand, with an assist from actors Marlon Brando and Isaac Hayes. Advertising for Miller Lite will feature such high-profile personalities as supermodel Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, retired baseball player George Brett and former NFL quarterback Dan Fouts.
The star-studded advertising campaigns signal a distinct advertising strategy shift for both Purchase, N.Y.-based Pepsi-Cola and Milwaukee-based Miller. The campaigns replace edgier commercials that were missing the target with younger cola and beer drinkers as well as confusing older consumers.
"That these two campaigns are coming out on the same day is ironic because they're both the exact same story," said Kevin Lane Keller, a marketing professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. "The lesson to be abstracted in both cases is the danger of trying to go really narrow with a campaign aimed at one target market. In the worst-case scenario, you can miss the target as well as lose the broader audience."
The new advertising is the latest in a long series of campaigns from both brands, some of them highly memorable, that nonetheless have failed to help Pepsi and Miller dislodge the market leaders.
Pepsi is dropping the 2-year-old "Generation Next" campaign developed under former marketing executive Brian Swette. Miller Lite abandoned the sophomoric "Dick" ads that drew critical acclaim but failed to sell six-packs.
Pepsi, which unveiled its new ads during a daylong beer distributors meeting in Purchase, clearly hopes that star appeal will help sell cola. Its "Generation Next" campaign was bereft of famous faces, but past Pepsi ads have used such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Cindy Crawford to pitch product.
The Pepsi spots created by New York-based BBDO will debut during the March 21 Academy Awards broadcast. The commercials feature child actor Hallie Eisenberg, whose voice is transformed into those of Franklin, Brando and Hayes. In the ads, Franklin whoops her way through a new jingle titled "The Joy of Cola."
The campaign marks the first effort for Dawn Hudson, a onetime advertising agency executive who joined Pepsi in 1996 and now serves as senior vice president of strategy and marketing for Pepsi-Cola North America.
Pepsi-Cola has 14.2% of the soft-drink market, but lags behind market leader Coke Classic, with a 20.6% share.
The success of the "Joy of Cola" campaign will be driven largely by whether consumers click with Franklin's distinctive voice and identify the slogan with Pepsi rather than with a generic cola drink.
"It sounds to me that Pepsi is trying to be more inclusive with this campaign by making a distinct move away from 'Generation Next,' " said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based Beverage Digest. "This is a recognition that a company's flagship cola is a big brand . . . and that they want to broaden the marketing of that brand."
Miller is taking the same tack with its Lite brand, said Jack Rooney, Miller's vice president of marketing. "The old campaign was targeted at legal drinking-age consumers from age 21 to 27, while this is aimed at 21 and older. It really casts a wide net."
Miller is struggling to gain share in the midst of an industry consolidation being forced by market leader Anheuser-Busch Cos., which has 50% of the beer category.
The new Miller Lite commercials produced by Minneapolis-based Fallon-McElligott will be broadcast during TV coverage of this weekend's college basketball tournaments. Miller hopes to piggyback on the success of the original "Tastes Great, Less Filling" Lite ads that began a 17-year run in 1975.
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Coca-Cola Co. and Miller Lite have altered their as campaigns in an attempt to gain ground in their markets.
'98 Soft-Drink Market Share
Coke Classic: 20.6%
Diet Coke: 8.6%
Mountain Dew: 6.7%
Top Four U>S> Beer Brands (in millions of barrels shipped):
Bud Light: 26.1
Miller Lite: 16.0
Coors Light: 15.2
\o7 Source: Beverage Digest/Maxwell\f7 ;\o7 Beer Marketer's INSIGHTS\f7