Pepsi pushing people to “Live For Now”

In the 1980s Michael Jackson pitched it as “the choice of a new generation.” In 1990 Ray Charles told people they “had the right one, baby.” Now, Pepsi wants people to “Live for Now.”

A multi-year campaign featuring that tagline, as well as various online components, ads and partnerships will roll out globally for the cola brand this year, starting on Monday in the United States.

The campaign is the biggest evidence to date of a renewed focus on marketing at PepsiCo, which has faced pressure from Wall Street to improve North American beverage sales. The company is spending an additional $500 million to $600 million this year on marketing a dozen of its brands, starting with its flagship cola.

“PepsiCo is two letters away from Pepsi,” said Brad Jakeman, chief creative officer of PepsiCo Beverages Americas. “It needed attention first … It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

Jakeman, who hails from Australia, joined PepsiCo last year from video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc, where he was chief marketing officer. He said he has wanted to work on the Pepsi brand for the past two decades.

“When it’s at its best, it’s telling people what’s important in pop culture,” Jakeman said in a recent interview at the company’s “beverage lab” just outside New York City. “From a brand perspective, I want this brand to regain its rightful place as a true pop culture icon.”

To that end, the first commercial in the “Live for Now” campaign will feature hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj singing her song “Moment 4 Life”. Minaj – known for her wacky outfits and dramatic performances – recently released her second album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. She also performed with Madonna during the Superbowl’s half-time show.

Over the next several years, the campaign will feature other artists and entertainers. While the campaign is global, its commercials will be relevant to particular markets, Jakeman said.

Another facet of the campaign is the “Pepsi Pulse,” an interactive website that will feature pop-culture information, entertainment news and original content.

Pepsi also signed a music-related partnership with Twitter.

Use of the “Live for Now” slogan and Nicki Minaj seems to be an attempt by Pepsi to regain the affections of the younger generation, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc.

“It’s something they absolutely need to do,” Passikoff said. “Its so hard to be able to differentiate yourself generally, and specifically in a category that has ultimately become ubiquitous.”

Passikoff, who tracks brand loyalty of Pepsi and rival Coca-Cola Co, does not have a lot of confidence in Pepsi’s ability to reignite the brand into something very cool again.

“I think it’s real tough in those kinds of relatively undifferentiated categories to come back,” he said. REUTERS