Pepsi, in Search of Social Media Buzz, Opens Sleek Kola House

                 Pepsi’s new ‘kola bar & lounge’ by kravitz design inc.

Hoping to “change the conversation” from Pepsi being just another sugar water beverage and jump start its sales that have fallen at least 5% in the third quarter, its marketers are hoping to corral younger, social media users into its hip Kola House, to bolster its image and attract consumers.  Or is this just another version of “not your dad’s soda fountain anymore”?

Pepsi is following in the footsteps of Chobani yogurt who opened a flagship cafe in SoHo in 2012, featuring its tasty yogurt combinations, and Nike, who opened a showroom and fitness studio, also in SoHo, in 2015.  The king of cool store design, though?  You guessed it.  Apple stores.  But can Pepsi be Apple?  Apple stores had its own problems and so turned to style house Burburry and hired its CEO, Angela Ahrendts, to spiff up Apple’s customer services standards for its online stores.  Clearly, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution to sagging sales or customer engagement.

Or is it?  I’m not sure Pepsi knows.  According to its chief marketing officer for beverages in North America, Seth Kaufman,  “Consumers will love your brand because your brand enables you to have the experience, but they don’t want to have the brand in their face.  It needs to be subtle, elegant, sophisticated.”

And why will this subtlety, not in-your-face branding, embodied in Kola House, embellish users’ love for Pepsi through an enhanced restaurant experience where Pepsi logos are hard to find?  According to Pepsi’s Kaufman, “We are in a time where we have to transform how we connect with and engage consumers.  If brands don’t do that today, they will be irrelevant tomorrow, whatever tomorrow is.”

Not having a clue about what tomorrow is or how Kola House will transform how Pepsi connects and engages consumers, at first blush, it doesn’t seem like a well-thought through social strategy to me, but maybe I just need to experience Kola House, drink a Pepsi, and tweet about my transformative engagement.

Or do what John Belushi used to do in his restaurant when customers asked for a Coke.  “No Coke, Pepsi.”


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