Pepsi Canada ushered in 2015 with a packaging change to Pepsi Next. Previously packaged in light blue, the product packaging transitions to green and harmonizes with the Pepsi True product packaging in the U.S. This change is logical since Pepsi True (in the U.S.) and Pepsi Next (everywhere except the U.S.) are formulated the same way: both versions are sweetened with stevia and contain fewer sugar and calories. While this packaging change harmonizes Pepsi’s cola representation in many markets, two questions remain. The first being what should Pepsi do to simplify their cola portfolio in the U.S., should they discontinue Pepsi Next so consumers are not confused with the many versions of Pepsi available? The second question is whether more harmonization is on the horizon, where Pepsi keeps only one brand name (Next or True) across all marketing areas?
Pepsi Next was launched to much fanfare in the U.S. and kickstarted with a Super Bowl commercial featuring Beyonce. Despite the amount of marketing support and retail space Pepsi dedicated to this launch, sales of Pepsi Next has not set the world on fire. Many consumers still find the aftertaste hard to stomach as a result of the artificial sweeteners. It would make sense to discontinue Pepsi Next since its performance fell short of expectations. While discontinuing Pepsi Next helps Pepsi True secure retail shelf space, this will be a tough decision for Pepsi. The mid-calorie soda launched in 2012 – roughly on the market for two years – and rationalizing the drink so quickly after its launch could damage Pepsi’s reputation for flawless product launches and create trust issues within their customer relationship. Since Pepsi True was introduced in 2014, discontinuing this product would undoubtedly create trust issues and severely damage Pepsi’s reputation in the marketplace. Regardless of difficulty, it’s important that Pepsi simplifies the U.S. cola portfolio. Rationalizing Pepsi Next would be easier than Pepsi True.
Pepsi would also have to address the product name of Next or True if it wants to achieve the greatest marketing scale and build the strongest brand equity. If cost was the sole consideration, keeping the Pepsi Next brand name is least costly since Pepsi True is only available in the U.S., whereas Pepsi Next is sold and recognized across the Americas, Europe, and Australia. However, the marketing perspective suggests that it would be make more strategic sense to keep the stronger brand name, and the name that translates best across multiple geographies. It’s possible that Pepsi keeps both names, as some products are branded with a different name in international markets. For example, North American brands Bounty (paper towel) and Becel (margarine) are recognized internationally as Plenty and Flora, respectively. It would just cost more to Pepsi as they market the product across closely tied geographies, like Canada and the U.S.
Changing the Pepsi Next packaging in Canada to match the U.S. Pepsi True packaging is a good first step toward reducing confusion, but the work isn’t done for Pepsi. Consumers should be on the lookout for some more changes to Pepsi Next (or Pepsi True if you’re in the U.S.) in the coming months.