When I was studying in Australia, I worked as a part time waitress at a restaurant which only served Pepsi. I used to go around taking orders, and when my customers asked for a glass of soda, I always immediately asked them “Is Pepsi, OK?”

And each time I did that, I felt like apologizing for Pepsi, because I knew that it was Coca-Cola that dominated the cola market, and customers might therefore have a preference for Coca-Cola over other brands.

But looking back at it now, apologizing for offering Pepsi was actually unnecessary. By apologetically asking “Is Pepsi, OK?” the Pepsi brand suffers. It suffers because I, like many other waitresses out there,  am helping to create the perception that the Pepsi brand is inferior and undesirable.

What if the customers actually liked or wanted to try Pepsi, but then changed their mind because I had made it sound like Pepsi was undesirable? Instead of sounding apologetic, I could have just said something like, “Well mam/sir, we serve Pepsi here and it is just as great as (or even better than) Coca-Cola”

In fact, we should also acknowledge that there are customers with a preference for Pepsi over others, and they can too, unabashedly love Pepsi.

Pepsi itself appeared to have finally addressed this long-time brand love issue, taking the matter in their own hands by recently launching what I think is one of Pepsi’s smartest campaigns to date. ‘Pepsi More Than OK’ stresses the new attitude.

Pepsi used the biggest and most important sporting event in the United States, the 2019 Superbowl, to release a brilliant ad that addressed this issue heads on. And what better way to generate conversation about this than to link one of the hottest talents out there — the one and only catchphrase-inventor Cardi B — to their brand.

With her infamous ‘okurrr’ for okay catchphrase, Cardi B is seen interrupting a waitress who  had just come out with the proverbial “Is Pepsi, OK?” when responding to a customer’s order for a Coke.

“Did you just ask if Pepsi is okurrr?!” Cardi asks back. “Of course Pepsi is okurrr.” What follows is a hilarious trivial exchange between the waitress, Cardi B, and restaurant visitors about how to pronounce the ‘okurrr’ catchphrase. The ad drives the point that when it comes to Pepsi, it is so much “More Than OK!”

There’s another version of this ‘More than OK’ advertisement featuring legendary actor and comedian Steve Carell who is telling people to say the ‘Okay’ with pride.

Pepsi’s ‘More Than OK’ campaign is a unique take in addressing the domination of Coca-Cola in the soda market. Having a Coke instead of other brands has become the ‘norm’ in many places, so when people enjoy or are being served other brands, they feel the need to defend or apologize for their choice.

What Pepsi did in this campaign was smart because they were able to reframe the ‘Is Pepsi, Okay?’ guilty narrative, and turn it into an encouragement for people to adopt a new attitude and be able to proudly show that Pepsi is more than OK.

Pepsi also did it with flair by using Cardi B, who also has cultivated a likeable in-your-face kind of persona. Her signature phrase “Okurrr” not only serves as a mnemonic but  is also a meme-able word. These elements are what made the ad great, with  the potential of turning the table when it concerns the dominance of Coca-Cola.

I understand that not a lot of people, especially in Indonesia, can relate much to Pepsi’s ‘More Than OK’ campaign. That’s probably because in the small market for carbonated drink that Indonesian presents, Coca-Cola leaves little room for competition. All too often we, marketer, find ourselves in a similar challenging situation like Pepsi’s – how to build our brand love amid the strong domination of a competitor.

So, why don’t we take a step back? Instead of  just focusing on trying to overturn our competitor, we should rather focus on building pride and a strong brand love among customers, and those who deliver our messages on the ground. Adopt a new attitude, reframe things, maybe throw in some humor in the process. That way, competitors and customers alike will take us more seriously.

Of course, to say that Pepsi’s ‘More than OK’ campaign has been successful in changing behavior, increase sales, or enhance brand love to Pepsi, is too premature. I would imagine that this advertisement is just to kick off Pepsi’s other marketing activities aimed at making their soda the drink of choice. And, if they continue to leverage their ‘More than OK’ campaign and turn it into a platform to transform their customers into unapologetic brand ambassadors, I believe there will be more people out there who will say, ‘I will have Pepsi, Okuuur’!

Written by Karina Prameswari, Manager

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