CoolTool Blog

CASE STUDY: How Pepsi's Bold Marketing Tactics Turn Disgust into Delight

CASE STUDY: How Pepsi's Bold Marketing Tactics Turn Disgust into Delight

Pepsi, known for its legendary marketing, last Christmas launched a campaign promoting a new drink mix called #PilkandCookies. This unusual blend of Pepsi and milk has gained popularity on social media as a trending "dirty soda" drink. Pepsi has always been positioned as a brand for the youth, so it's not a surprise they really pay attention to what’s happening on TikTok and often look for ways to get in on trends as a way to stay relevant to young consumers. But was the ad effective in capturing viewers' attention and influencing brand attachment?

To answer these questions, we at CoolTool used our automated neuromarketing methodology to evaluate the ad's impact on audience behavior. 

The ad can be called ambiguous. And that's why it's the best case for testing it with neuromarketing behavioral tools. One of the purposes of this case study is to show the gap in insights researchers can experience if using only surveys. Surveys alone cannot give you proven behavioral insights.  

Let's take a look at the WOW-insights we got by executing this case study.

Research background 

Research objectives:

- Potential of the ad to involve emotionally, capture and hold the viewer's visual attention
- Ad evaluation by main KPIs
- Moment-to-moment feedback (Ad likeability at each moment)
- Impact of Ad on Pepsi perception

Automated video advertising testing methodology (available at CoolTool platform) using integrated multiple nonconscious measurement tools simultaneously and providing the results in easy-to-use dashboard exported in xls. format. 

Used techniques:

- Emotion measurement 
- Implicit tests 
- Moment-to-moment feedback
- Screen focus 
- Eye tracking
- Surveys

General performance of #PilkandCookies Campaign

Speaking generally, the Pilk idea has the potential to stand out and attract attention to the brand due to its unique nature. Thanks to surveys we know, the ad effectively conveys the main message in a clear and credible manner. For almost half of the audience, advertising creates a good informational reason causing a desire to search for more information. 

The ad is perceived as unique and credible. Half of the respondents proved the intention to purchase the product. But what about people’s feelings towards the ad? Where did their attention go while watching? How do they react to the scene of mixing Pepsi with milk? 

Let’s see what we get with neuromarketing tools. 

Storyline: How focused users were while watching the commercial 

Measuring attention helps to understand how effectively the commercial is able to capture and hold the viewer's attention. We found that Pepsi storyline has the ability to keep users engaged and focused better than the average, which is a great outcome! However, there is a scene where the main character is searching for Santa that has less potential to capture attention. This is where the screen-focus technique can aid in identifying the less essential parts of the plot.

An intriguing discovery was made regarding age groups and their attention span towards the ad. The ad was able to retain attention well across all generations, except for the oldest age group. This indicates that the ad is particularly well-received by active users of TikTok, who are primarily from Gen Z, and where the trend of #dirtysoda was highly popular.

Research has also shown disparities in attention span between genders. Interactive dashboard assists in revealing the most and least appealing moments within an advertisement second by second for male and female audiences.

According to the dashboard results, women tend to pay less visual attention and are more likely to move away from the screen going through the video. Еhey are more likely to lose attention if the information is less dynamic. This is evidenced by the scenes where the main character is looking for Santa, as well as the final scene with the product image, which lasts about 7 sec without dynamic visuals on a screen. Meanwhile, men are fine with non-dynamic content - unlike women, they maintain focus on the screen even if the scene is not dynamic.


Emotions at play: Is the dominant feeling disgust or delight? 

Using controversial emotions in commercials can be risky because it may alienate some members of the audience. For example, if a commercial uses fear or disgust as an emotional hook, it might cause some viewers to feel anxious or upset, which could negatively impact their perception of the brand or product being advertised. However, if done carefully and with a clear strategy, controversial emotions can also be used in commercials to evoke strong reactions and create a memorable experience. It is important to consider the target audience, the message and the context of the commercial before using controversial emotions in it. 

In our case study, the analysis of individual emotions shows the emotions experienced at different times. Pepsi aligns well with a New Year celebration, evoking delight. However, it is noteworthy that the process of mixing Pepsi with milk is perceived as disgusting by some. Not everyone was prepared for such a scene. However, after Lindsay Lohan drank it and said it tasted good, the negative reaction changed to delight, utilizing the "social proof" technique. 

This is a great example of how trust in the character forms viewers' attitudes towards what they see and feel. 

The ad receives the most favorable response from Gen X (if Lindsay Lohan likes it, I will like it too). However, this reasoning is not as compelling for Gen Z. 



Moment-to-moment likability feedback 

Though the appeal of the ad decreases when milk and Pepsi are mixed, using a celebrity (Lindsay Lohan) to endorse the Pilk has a positive impact on how the ad is perceived.


There is no significant difference in the way the advertising is perceived between gender groups. However, Lindsay Lohan's appearance resonates more with the male audience, while the initial part of the commercial (with the New Year's mood and Santa Claus) is more appealing to women.




In a nutshell - no, it didn’t harm. 

Even though the product being offered is viewed as unappealing, it does not negatively impact brand perception at a subconscious level. In fact, it has a positive impact and enhances the perception of the brand as a youth, festive, joyful and cool brand.


Most of these attributes were highlighted by the female audience as you can see in the graph below. Men perceive the brand as the cool one, and women have a wider range of attributes they associate with Pepsi. 


And if we take a look at the brand perception by age groups - that surprised us the most - the brightest brand appeal is shown by generation X:


This is where the ad hit the target - Generation X. They were focused on the screen, they were delighted to see the celebrity, they definitely perceived the ad and brand as creative, cool and authentic. 

Could the situation have been different? Definitely, it could have been. The ad causing ambiguous emotions can easily harm the brand.  But well tested advertising’s chance to fail is very low. 

Testing commercials with neuromarketing tools before launching them to the market is not just useful. Neuromarketing tools help to identify potential issues with the ad, such as confusing messaging or lack of emotional resonance, and make adjustments before it is released to the general public. 

Research done with non-conscious measurements in addition to traditional surveys also provide information on how different segments of the target audience respond to the ad, which can help to tailor the message and make it more effective for specific groups. This can lead to better targeting and more efficient use of marketing resources.

Automated neuromarketing methodology makes getting such behavioral insights as easy as it can be. Just upload your media and get the insights! In addition you can add surveys and ask your audience some specific questions. In combination with insights about their nonconscious reactions such research will provide you with a comprehensive picture of your marketing efforts success. 

Learn more about the CoolTool’s automated methodology for testing ads here: Maximize Your Video Ad Efforts with In-Depth Storyboard Analysis by CoolTool 



We use cookies to improve our services for you. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.