A look at refreshing brand identities and why they work in liminal realms
by Jincy IypeMay 30, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jincy IypePublished on : May 13, 2023
Pepsi has shared its first significant rebrand in 14 years across all its touchpoints, marking the brand’s ‘next era.' As a child of the 90s, I grew up surrounded by its confident and proud branding displayed across multiple avenues, from global cricket matches, advertisements plastered on subways and billboards, and massive celebrity endorsements (who can forget the inexplicable but thrilling Pepsi commercial starring Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and P!nk as Roman gladiators belting and dancing to Queen’s We Will Rock You?) With a spirited new logo and rehauled visual identity, the iconic brand showcases a bold typeface, a signature animated pulse and an updated colour palette, including a massive insertion of black which highlights its commitment to Pepsi Zero Sugar, and the ‘Pepsi’ wordmark settling contentedly inside its iconic red, blue, and white globe. What’s new, what’s been discarded, and what went into its redesign?
Rolling out their new look in North America in time for the brand’s 125th anniversary, and globally in 2024, the fashionably retro (and strategic) rebrand keeps 'an eye towards the future.' The American soda brand displays its commitment and the subconscious war on sugar, responding to the rising reluctance of consumers who are choosing to be more health conscious.
"At PepsiCo, we design our brands to tell a compelling and holistic story. Pepsi is a shining example of a brand that has consistently reinvented itself over 125 years to remain a part of pop culture and a part of people's lives. We designed the new brand identity to connect future generations with our brand's heritage, marrying distinction from our history with contemporary elements to signal our bold vision for what's to come,” said Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo, for whom, design is "an act of love."
“The new design evolves the Pepsi brand to represent its most unapologetic and enjoyable qualities and will span across all physical and digital touchpoints, including packaging, fountain and cooler equipment, fleet, fashion, and dining. Pepsi plays a critical role in achieving the PepsiCo Positive sustainable packaging targets and in the US, as of 2022, Pepsi has begun to convert all 20oz bottles of Pepsi, including Pepsi Zero Sugar to 100% recycled PET. The new logo and visual identity pay homage to the brand's rich heritage while taking a big leap toward the future,” the brand relays.
Throughout its storied history, Pepsi has maintained a ‘bold challenger mindset’ and a robust connection to pop culture, according to the brand—"from the Pepsi Challenge and reimagining the Super Bowl Halftime Show, to creating some of the most iconic ads of all time with the world's most renowned musicians and actors, Pepsi has always pushed the culture forward, to deliver one-of-a-kind fan experiences in a timely way, while simultaneously remaining iconic and timeless. It has also continuously reinvented itself with brave marketing and product innovation, from creating its own television shows, exploring Web3 and introducing compelling new varieties over the years including the recent Nitro Pepsi, Pepsi x Peeps, Pepsi for SodaStream and an improved Pepsi Zero Sugar taste in the U.S. to give fans the best tasting cola in the zero-sugar category.”
Revelling in its fresh, almost effortless graphic design identity, Pepsi was inspired by helping fans ‘choose more moments of unapologetic enjoyment,' positioning the giant company in a rapidly evolving, much competitive market. “In an increasingly digital world, the revitalised and distinct design introduces movement and animation into the visual system, unlocking more flexibility for Pepsi to move between physical and digital spaces, from retail shelves to the metaverse. It also allows for more seamless and creative collaboration with partners and retailers and more versatility to engage fans in the places they shop, dine, work and play,” they continue.
"Pepsi is an iconic brand that is constantly evolving with the times, as it has been a staple in pop culture and disrupted the category for the past 125 years. We couldn't be more excited to begin a new era for Pepsi, as this exciting new and modern look will drive brand distinction to show up bigger and bolder and help people find new ways to unapologetically enjoy the things they love. This new visual system brings out the best of the Pepsi brand's rich heritage while taking a giant leap forward to set it up for success in an increasingly digital world," added Todd Kaplan, Chief Marketing Officer, Pepsi.
When beginning work on the new design, we asked ourselves: how do we take everything we love about Pepsi and its past, and create something that transcends? – Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo
The new logo and visual identity thoughtfully and thoroughly borrow equity from its 125-year-old legacy, incorporating modern elements to devise a look that is ‘unapologetically current and undeniably Pepsi.' How so? The iconic Pepsi globe (which has remained the focus since the 1950s) and wordmark unite to fit into a variety of settings to emphasise its distinctive branding; An updated colour palette introduces electric blue (that ventures closer to the midnight blue of the logo’s older versions) and classic black to bring contrast, vibrancy, and a modern touch to the classic Pepsi colour scheme of red, blue, and white. Given the brand's continued focus on Pepsi Zero Sugar, the graphic and communication design integrates classic black, referencing the brand's commitment to Pepsi Zero Sugar in the future. “A lot of people don’t even notice the black is there. It’s an intentional colour we added in with Zero Sugar, which will be the lead brand we use in marketing. It can act as a master brand statement," Kaplan adds.
A new visually distinct can silhouette, which heroes the iconic Pepsi can as an accessible brand for all; A contemporary, bold, and custom typeface design that reflects the brand's confidence and ‘unapologetic mindset’; The signature Pepsi pulse evokes the ‘ripple, pop and fizz’ of Pepsi-Cola with dynamic movement, which also brings the rhythm and energy of music, an important and continuing part of the Pepsi legacy.
In conversation with STIR, Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s first-ever Chief Design Officer, shared his vision of the intentionally simplified identity and packaging design for Pepsi that cuts through the ultra-saturated, almost dizzying visuals of brands currently.
Jincy Iype: What lies at the core of Pepsi’s new logo and visual identity?
Mauro Porcini: To mark Pepsi’s 125th anniversary, we launched a new visual identity that builds and strengthens our distinctive brand through bold type, an energetic colour palette and a unified logomark. It is unapologetically current and undeniably Pepsi.
Jincy: Could you elaborate on something you said on the new logo's launch—"As a child, growing up in a small town in Northern Italy, taking my first steps as a designer in the world of creativity in the wonderful city of Milan, I never imagined that one day I would have the privilege of rethinking one of the best known and loved brands in the world.”
Mauro: There are brands that are so iconic, so loved, and so global, that they become more than just a product. They become a lifestyle and a part of pop culture. To work on Pepsi, a brand of that calibre, is a huge honour and privilege. While the new logo and visual identity were a huge undertaking, they were also an act of love and I’m excited to share that with the world.
Jincy: Please take us behind the journey that led to this new visual identity, a change after 14 years.
Mauro: It’s been 14 years since Pepsi introduced a new visual identity. As a brand that’s on the world stage and interacts with millions of people every day, it’s important for us to revisit our look and feel every once in a while, to ensure we are resonating with fans in the many places they enjoy Pepsi. The logo design was finalised in the summer of 2021 and from then we started to work on the full visual identity system and execution across the brand’s many touchpoints. But this was a labour of love that started years before that summer, and we’re so thrilled to finally share it with the world.
The first prototypes of this new can, after we reviewed hundreds of different iterations in the previous years, landed on my desk in the early summer of 2021, completely developed in-house by our PepsiCo design team. And on that desk stayed, for the past two years. Very few people in the company had seen it back then—just the beverage business leadership team, that we partnered with to create it, and our CEO, Ramon Laguarta.
I would look at that new can every day, under my screen, sitting by the current one, while having my meetings in Zoom. And I would share it with a series of PepsiCo stakeholders that I was interacting with, confidentially, and almost abruptly, at the end of my video calls on totally different topics, to test their reactions, to check if they liked it. And 100 per cent of them loved it.
I had another set in my house in the Hamptons. Every weekend during the summer I have guests over. They are all close friends. Many of them are designers, architects, artists, or business leaders working in the design and fashion industry. I guess creative people attract creative people. I would share the cans with them too. Before and after. And they all loved the new one. Consistently.
With time passing by, I started to become more and more confident that this was the right design. And the right decision for the business too. And I started to pitch it to the company with more passion, more resilience, more conviction, together with my design team, and with Todd and his marketing team. Finally, the company gave us the blessing and the funding to make it happen in the market. From that moment we started a process to do everything you do when you launch a new product, including formal and extensive ‘consumer research.’
But to redesign a brand as iconic and loved as Pepsi is not easy. It’s crazy difficult, actually. You never know how billions of people that consume it all around the world will react to it once in the market. And you don’t want to be the person to get that design wrong… As a designer, you can do thousands of projects right, and make a mistake with the redesign of one of the most renowned brands in the world, and you will be remembered just for that one mistake.
You can only imagine the pressure.
And so, you can also imagine our joy, as a team, when we saw overwhelmingly positive reactions.
Design is 'an act of love,' as I state in the first sentence of my book. As designers we gift our users something that we conceived with love for them, trying to add some form of value to their lives. That value could take any shape, and it could be as simple as adding some form of beauty into their daily routine.
But there is no more painful love than the one that is not reciprocated! Therefore, I am so deeply grateful to you all, because, in the past days, we did feel your love back. The love of hundreds of millions of people…
But to redesign a brand as iconic and loved as PEPSI is not easy. It’s crazy difficult, actually. You never know how billions of people that consume it all around the world will react to it once in the market. And you don’t want to be the person to get that design wrong… – Mauro Porcini
Jincy: How does your redesign “pay homage to the brand's rich heritage while taking a big leap toward the future”?
Mauro: When beginning work on the new design, we asked ourselves: how do we take everything we love about Pepsi and its past, and create something that transcends? The new visual identity borrows equity from our history but is paired with new, modern elements to signal our bold vision for the future.
At 125 years old, Pepsi has a very rich heritage and history. We didn’t want to shy away from this. As designers, it was important for us to honour this storied past but also bring a contemporary edge. Some of the new elements you’ll see are the updated colour palette, signature typography, and a ‘pulse.’ These design elements represent the current and future eras of Pepsi but with the flexibility to adapt to all the places Pepsi shows up in the world.
Jincy: The reincorporation of ‘Pepsi’ into the logo’s centre eliminated the previous rebrand, where the wordmark went free from the icon itself, where the icon itself was deemed recognisable without text. What are your thoughts on this assertion?
Mauro: From a design perspective, having a unified wordmark and logomark gives us more flexibility in how we can show up in different settings, including dining, sports, music, gaming and beyond. So, for this next era of the brand, we’ve proudly unified our name with the Pepsi globe.
Jincy: Could you highlight some key differences between Pepsi’s old and new branding?
Mauro: Holistically, the new look, including a confident type, brighter palette, and the unified wordmark, is a bold leap for the brand. In the colour palette, you’ll see the addition of the colour black, an ode to Pepsi Zero Sugar, which appears in the wordmark, the globe outline, the pulse, and throughout the visual identity system. Black is bold and creates a beautiful contrast with the electric blue. The Pepsi wordmark and globe now blend, to take over every touchpoint, from packaging to equipment to fashion.
The black outline also helps to spotlight the globe with the new, ownable pulse—a living and breathing design asset that allows Pepsi to flex and customise its look to any setting, platform, or partnership to reach people in new and exciting ways, every day. This new look and feel for Pepsi are modern and original, but it maintains Pepsi’s brand distinction.
Don’t be afraid to dream big—you should always dream! If you don’t have a dream, you’ll never be able to make it come true! Dream and then act! – Mauro Porcini
Jincy: What are some dynamic features of the rebrand which will reflect on digital spaces, as opposed to flat, physical billboards or product surfaces?
Mauro: The new logo and visual identity are optimised for today’s digital world, from stadium screens to the metaverse. The pulse I mentioned before is one of our dynamic design elements that can flex and live almost anywhere, including T-shirts and semi-trucks to mobile apps and video games.
Jincy: The modern rebranding attests to Pepsi’s commitment to the reduced sugar content of Pepsi Zero Sugar—was that intentional?
Mauro: Black has also always signified Pepsi Zero Sugar, which is a huge growth driver for the brand Pepsi, especially as demand grows for great-tasting zero-sugar cola alternatives.
Jincy: How has the response been to the redesign? What makes it tick with your consumers and what makes it contemporary?
Mauro: Prior to the announcement, we conducted research with people around the world and received a positive response to our new look and feel. Specifically, people loved the bright colour palette, distinctiveness, and overall look of the contemporary design. And since we announced, we’ve been thrilled to see how the news has resonated with Pepsi fans around the globe.
Jincy: How does a rebrand such as this help in a brand’s evolution and subsequently, the product’s consumption at large?
Mauro: With a brand as big and beloved as Pepsi, updating a visual identity is a large-scale endeavour that takes time. That said, we’re very excited about how the new design will show up in the world. The bold, clean, and iconic visual identity will help improve shelf navigation and brand recall, turning transactions into brand-building moments. We are very confident that this redesign will continue to positively propel our brand into the future.
Pepsi’s latest communication design comes as a breath of fresh air, more so, because its previous logo wasn’t received too well. Paying homage to its Titan heritage and popularity, the overall rebranding appears to be an accomplishment. It is exciting to see such a popular brand make massive efforts towards its evolvement, striving to adapt and overcome according to industry standards and evolving times, capturing the essence of the current era’s tone.
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