How Pepsi engaged the Chinese youth with creative crowdsourcing


The world’s first timeline of crowdsourcing by brands is being constantly updated with past and present cases, and there are now more than 200 crowdsourcing initiatives featured – lots more to come (I just need to find the time…)! In this post, I’d like to present one of the first crowdsourcing examples that has been of strategic importance for a brand in a local market: Pepsi’s Creative Challenges in China. Even before the well-known Pepsi Refresh Project, this series of crowdsourcing initiatives have allowed the brand to get consumers’ attention in the country. Here’s how.

The contests Pepsi initiated in China were called the “Creative Challenges” and were designed to engage the Chinese audience around the Pepsi brand. From 2006 to 2009, a series of four annual contests were launched, prompting Chinese consumers to get creative and to co-create with the brand in a variety of ways. In this post, we present you each of the four challenges:

  • Co-creating a TV-commercial


Click more details about this challenge by clicking on the timeline

In its first creative challenge, Pepsi invited consumers to co-create its next TV commercial. The Creative Challenge invited consumers to help develop the company’s next TV spot, starring Asian superstar Jay Chow, by submitting scripts of up to 200 words. In the days following the promotion launch, the site received thousands of entries, and after six weeks Chinese consumers submitted almost 27,000 scripts.

Eventually, the winner was Li Ming, a high-school teacher in the province of Zhejiang on China’s southeast coast. Mr. Li took home the $12,500 grand prize (more than a teacher in China earns in a year) and participated in production meetings to cast the spot and select props and shoot locations. Check out the final, co-created spot:


Want to find out more about this first edition? Go here

  • Becoming the face of Pepsi


Click more details about this challenge by clicking on the timeline

The second edition of Pepsi’s Creative Challenge, in 2007, was again leveraging the growing power of social media in China, with Pepsi launching a casting in order to put the faces of the winners on its cans. By massively using online advertising, events, TV advertising, the endorsement of Chinese actor Louis Koo, and other promotional activity, Pepsi’s “I Want To Go On A Can” campaign generated up to 2.5 million submissions to the contest – in six weeks!

These numbers are only the tip of an iceberg, because the most exciting stories are the community that we are reaching and also the profile of the candidates,” Leo Tsoi, marketing director for Pepsi’s beverage business unity in China, said. “The participants are really from all walks of life including celebrities, a two-time ‘World of Warcraft’ game champion, babies and net stars.” One winner picked by Chinese web surfers was a Buddhist monk with a blog, a choice Pepsi execs cheerfully acknowledged was a dare by their consumers.

Want to find out more about this second contest? Go here

  • Embodying the Olympic spirit


Click more details about this challenge by clicking on the timeline

The year of the Olympics in Beijing, Pepsi tasked consumers to use their mobile phones to send in slogans and pictures of themselves to express their patriotic spirit. As the world’s largest mobile market, China and its 500 million mobile phones in users (in 2008) were an attractive audience for Pepsi, which is why they leveraged this channel for this “Go China” campaign.

Targeting young consumers, Pepsi asked people to upload photos along with basic information, such as birth date, mobile number and nickname, and even to cast their votes via mobile, which was very innovative in 2008. Pepsi got 28 million submissions and more than 122 million votes to decide the winners, whose photos and slogans were printed on Pepsi soda cans.

Want to find out more about this first edition? Go here

  • Co-creating birthday wishes for China


Click more details about this challenge by clicking on the timeline

The last Creative Challenge that Pepsi launched was held in 2009, when the company sollicited online birthday wishes marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Pepsi partnered with internet service provider Tencent to invite the public to “Create your wish for China,” which could be submitted across three of Tencent’s social networking platforms (Taotao, QQ, and QZone) as well as on a designated microsite. As well as voting online for their favourite suggestions, users could access a very cool ‘Creativity Map’ (see above) to see where most wishes came from and what the most popular words from different regions were.

In the first week alone, the site saw over 6 million unique visitors and received more than 4 million submissions. By the end of September 2009, Pepsi received almost 34 million entries. The winning wish, from the Hubei province, gained close to 200,000 votes. The ten most popular wishes also won a coveted spot on a 2010 Pepsi TV commercial. Some 60 runners-up received a T-shirt designed by the lead vocalist of one of China’s biggest rock bands, May Day.

Want to find out more about this first edition? Go here

  • Why Pepsi stopped?

During the fourth challenge, Chris Tung, Vice President of Pepsi Brand Marketing in the Greater China region, summed up the efforts around the Pepsi Creative Challenges: “Pepsi is always looking to raise the bar in terms of consumer engagement,he said. “Back in 2006 we realized that young Chinese are increasingly looking to the online space to connect with brands. Our purpose in holding this massive ‘on-line ritual’ of Creative Challenges every year is to position Pepsi as a brand that continually seeks innovative ways to engage Chinese youth’s desire for creative expression.

But to our knowledge, the fourth challenge was also the last one. Why has it stopped? Probably because Pepsi decided to pursue another communication strategy to build consumer engagement. According to iMediaConnection, Pepsi had edged out Coke for leadership of the cola market in China, and BusinessWeek suggested that this success was significantly based on “its distinctive marketing efforts” like the above. Their crowdsourcing efforts had paid off.

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