Big corporations have the power to do big things, and Pepsi is the latest company to create an initiative that appears to be focused less on advertising and more on positive change. Teaming up with GOOD Magazine, on Monday, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project, a grant program that will allot at least $20 million through the end of the year for donations to individuals, businesses and nonprofits working with everything from health to arts and culture to the environment.
Pepsi accepts 1000 new ideas for grants every month. Visitors to the refresheverything.com site can vote daily on which ideas they think are best. There’s a lot up for grabs; grants will be made in $5,000 to $250,000 bundles. Anyone that has an idea that just might change the world, it looks like this project just might be what you were looking for.
In the past branding might have been about getting people to put a Pepsi in their hand and recommend it to their friends, but now it’s about engaging communities to raise awareness about great causes. Pepsi will be using the power of social media to spread the word. In fact, Pepsi has partnered with some of the biggest names in the online industry to promote the project including Hulu, AOL and MTV.
Some may question the intentions of a major brand like Pepsi, but the people at GOOD are convinced that the initiative a positive thing. “That a major brand like Pepsi is taking a stand and saying that purpose and progress are core to its identity is critical,” said GOOD Founder and CEO, Ben Goldhirsh in a recent blog post. The New York Times calls that cause-related marketing or pro-social marketing, “by which corporations seek to back up their talk about benefiting society.”
As for the social media side of things, this initiative emphasizes the increased role that consumers are having in today’s branding and advertising campaigns. In fact, they’re no longer just consumers, but an active and engaged audience that can turn a simple campaign into a movement.
Go take a look at some of the many projects that have been submitted for grants… there’s some REALLY good stuff in there — a multimedia Afghan photo exhibit, an interactive website to learn about human trafficking, a cross country bike trip to build affordable housing, and beyond! — which gives us great hope that although this is certainly getting Pepsi a lot of good PR, it’s about something bigger and better.
What do you think? Is the Pepsi Refresh Project a vehicle for positive change or just another advertising campaign?