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One news story that quietly crept out shortly before Christmas was that of Pepsi walking away from a 23-year tradition of advertising during the Super Bowl. It is a decision that is amazing some whilst others, particularly those with experience with social media marketing, hailing as a smart move. Is it a smart move, though?

On the face of it, you may think it a strange move. After all, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched events each year in the US. Then again, that last phrase probably tells the story. The Super Bowl is a US event with a rather limited international audience. Besides which, the international audience doesn’t view the same commercials as those in the US. Does Pepsi need to spend up big to promote its brand within the US? Probably not.

This could mark the start of a major push by Pepsi into foreign markets, particularly those markets in Asia. Who are the biggest users of social media? Asia, particularly China. It just so happens that Pepsi’s biggest rival, Coke, is one of the most popular brands in China. Put the two together and you start to gain an understanding behind Pepsi’s thinking.

Is there a lesson for other businesses? I think there are several. The first is that Pepsi is not the first major corporation to look to social media marketing rather than traditional methods alone. Traditional methods are typically one off events. The Super Bowl, for example, is one day of hype – the following day most of the advertisements will have been forgotten. Social media marketing is more permanent and have much longer lasting effects.

The second point to note is that of cost. Traditional marketing is far more expensive than online social media marketing. Sure, a television ad will get you a response today or tomorrow. However, you have to keep repeating that ad to continue those responses. Online social media marketing is still a continuous process, but with a much lower expense. More importantly, where traditional marketing is a constant one off, social media marketing keeps building on itself with each online contact made adding to the previous.

It will be interesting to see if Pepsi can use social media marketing to make inroads into areas that are currently dominated by Coke. Have they made the right move? I think so.

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