MI6 Conference: Pepsi Making a Name in Games

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Frank Cooper III, Pepsi-Cola North America’s VP of CSD Flavors, knows a lot about making connections. In marketing Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist for Pepsi, Mr. Cooper has successfully matched his company’s brands, Mountain Dew in particular, with the exploding world of video gaming.

At the MI6 game marketing conference this week in San Francisco, he will talk about how Mountain Dew joined with Microsoft and Xbox 360 for a huge online promotion in 2005, resulting in his company’s being named the Brand Marketing Partner of the Year by MI6.

Mr. Cooper spoke with TelevisionWeek correspondent Allison J. Waldman about Mountain Dew, the consumer and how the “Every 10 Minutes” promotion made more than 9,000 gamers very, very happy. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

TelevisionWeek: How did you come to Pepsi?

Frank Cooper III: My background is in show business. I was an entertainment attorney, and then later founded an Internet company. I came to Pepsi in 2003 and joined the company in multicultural marketing. I very quickly picked up responsibility for promotions and interactive marketing.

TVWeek: What does it mean for Pepsi to be honored by MI6 as the Brand Marketing Partner of the Year?

Mr. Cooper: It’s really focused on Mountain Dew, and Mountain Dew’s involvement with the gaming community. It’s similar to what we’ve done with other partners. We’re the first non-endemic partner to become an authentic part of the gaming culture. And this award is recognition that we are at least on the right path.

TVWeek: Is the gaming audience an audience that chooses Mountain Dew more than other sodas?

Mr. Cooper: It depends on which part of the gaming audience you’re talking about. If you’re talking about core gamers versus mainstream gamers, Mountain Dew is the chosen brand among a large group of consumers. But what we’ve seen is that the things that people get excited about when they look to video games-you know, the kind of energy and competitiveness, and sometimes even the irreverence-that happens to match well with some of the values of Mountain Dew. We’ve been able to create these initiatives because there’s something true about the brand with the experience of gaming, and we’ve tried to make that match in each case as much as possible.

TVWeek: Tell me about the winning campaign.

Mr. Cooper: Last year we did a campaign with Microsoft and Xbox 360 called “Every 10 Minutes,” the idea being that we were giving away an Xbox 360 every 10 minutes for nine weeks straight. And what we found compelling about that-because people are giving away things all the time-was in this case you could win it before you could buy it.

TVWeek: This was all Web-oriented, right? It involved going online.

Mr. Cooper: You would basically get the code number from under the Mountain Dew bottle cap, and then you’d go online and enter that code and you start to collect points. After a while you may have collected enough points to put them in a time slot where you might win, or put some points in a different 10-minute slot. And you’d get feedback within a certain about of time saying either, “Yes, you won,” or, “No, you haven’t.”

TVWeek: That must have been exciting for gamers.

Mr. Cooper: Even more important, the participation in the game-the contest-became a game itself. When you’re giving away an Xbox 360 every 10 minutes, people are truly engaged. They’re thinking about when to put their points in, they’re thinking about the best time slots. It became almost like playing a video game. … That became an engaging part of the experience.

TVWeek: And you gave away more than 9,000 Xbox 360s.

Mr. Cooper: It was clearly one of the most successful promotions that we’ve ever done.

TVWeek: Where did the idea come from?

Mr. Cooper: Mountain Dew had been involved in gaming for quite a while. We were involved in a giveaway of the first Xbox. We did the Halo 2 promotion in conjunction with 7-Eleven. As we got deeper and deeper into gaming, it became clear that there was an opportunity to do something that was, hopefully, groundbreaking. Then we went to E3 and became the first non-endemic company to actually become a sponsor there. We were also looking at how do you create brand experiences for consumers. Instead of creating some kind of static, transactional experience where it was like, “Fill out this form and get a chance to win,” we made the experience of participating a lot more engaging.

TVWeek: And that’s what you’ll be talking about at MI6?

Mr. Cooper: Yes. Hopefully, we could talk about this and also about what we’re seeing on an ongoing basis. We think this area is ripe with opportunities. It’s not right for every brand, but we think our brand-Mountain Dew-happens to match well with what’s happening in gaming. We’re looking at providing access to things that gamers can’t otherwise get, but we also want to become part of the experience itself. For instance, we’ve entered a partnership with DirecTV, Xbox, IGN and Best Buy to form the Championship Gaming Series.

TVWeek: Tell us about that.

Mr. Cooper: There have been other gaming tournaments, but we think we have a way of transforming video gaming competition experience both for the gamers and the audience. We’re going to unveil that shortly. We’re really excited about that opportunity. But we’re constantly looking for ways to become part of the vernacular, become part of the experience and the excitement.

TVWeek: Gaming has been very popular, then it waned for a while and came back more popular than ever. Do you think it’s cyclical, or is it back to stay?

Mr. Cooper: I personally believe it is here to stay. It’s been more than a few years, and you’ve seen the trajectory of it, the steady growth at this point. … But more important, you have a generation of consumers who basically see gaming as a part of their life. It’s not that they sit with a game all day. But the graphics, the gaming experience, the types of games have moved away from what typically had appealed to just core gamers. Now there’s something for everyone. You have a vast array of gaming options and you have these graphics that are just amazing at this point.

TVWeek: Looking into the future, do you see a lot of possibilities for Mountain Dew and the gaming community?

Mr. Cooper: Absolutely. We’re just now seeing the tip of the iceberg. As we start to go forward, we continue to learn, the industry continues to evolve, consumers and gamers continue to evolve and we’ve got to keep learning as we go and keep trying new things. We’re really excited about the opportunities to come.