Can you change your brand name? The Pe(p)si case

It was like a little earthquake last summer for all branding gurus who claim you should never change your brand name. To this date – especially for all big international brands the rule was: never change your name in spelling and pronunciation! One brand in all markets!

And Pepsi did just the exact opposite. It changed its brand name in Argentina to “Pecsi”.

There is even an official Pepsi, sorry Pecsi website about pronunciation and it reflects in a humorous way how people from Argentina pronounce english words in a different way, e.g. “Rocanroll”, “Daunlos”.

Now the earth is shaking for all those “one world – one brand” believers: Pepsi promotes the pronunciation “Pesi” in Spain.

Based on the fact that many Spanish speakers can pronounce the brand’s name more easily and phonetically without that second “p” Pepsi is now “Pesi” in Spain. In a new commercial Spanish soccer star Fernando Torres gets fed up when the director keeps correcting the way he says “Pesi” on camera.

As in Argentina, the overall message in Spain is, “Do you say ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Pesi’? If you say ‘Pepsi,’ it’s correct. If you say ‘Pesi,’ it’s even better. It doesn’t matter how you say it, you are saving either way.” Based on their experience in Argentina the change has paid off: “Changing Pepsi to Pecsi was a way of gaining closeness [to the consumer] and transcending a mere value message,” said Ramiro Rodriguez Cohen, a BBDO Argentina creative director (Source).

Like in Argentina Pepsi created an unique website lodigascomolodigas (spanish for “You say it like you say it”) for this change of name.

Looking at this case from a Voice Branding perspective the question is: does it help the brand? And moreover what will happen in the medium and long run to the brand? Will it loose brand power or gain?

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5 responses to “Can you change your brand name? The Pe(p)si case

  1. I read about this alleged name change in Spain and Argentinia a few months ago, too. I then thought it is a neat campaign and that they do not really plan a (long-term) brand name change. Today, I still have the same impression.

    Reason 1: On the Spanish website it seems as if they just play with the pronunciation. The international logo is still present there: http://www.pepsi.es (www.pesi.es does not work).

    Reason 2: On the Argentinian website they do show a “Pesi”-logo, however, it’s design is neither identical with the old Pepsi logo nor with the new one.

    Either they are fully out of control at Pepsi now, or it is, as I still believe, a nice ad campaign that is meant to create word-of-mouth – and not more.

    (By the way, I believe the recent design change of the Pepsi logo “wave” is c0mpletely useless.)

    I am looking forward to finding out whether Pesi/Pecsi was just a neat ad campaign producing a lot (or little) brand talk, or a change that is meant for real… .

  2. Karsten, thanks for your comment. I do agree with you, however; even if it is just a neat campaign it is very unusual that a brand promotes a different pronunciation of its brand name. Most brands try to “implement” the original pronunciation of its brand name. And that’s what makes this case so interesting from a branding and especially from a voice branding perspective: an international mega brand is going a new way – off the beaten track.

  3. Hmmm,

    I’ve heard it said that the two most recognised words in the world are ‘ok’ and Coke. So its kind of ironic with Pepsi being Coke’s major competitor :-)

    But with both Pepsi pronunciations being relatively similar, it seems to me the brand isn’t likely to become diluted because each ‘should’ point the customer to the same product.

    Allowing for More comfortable pronunciation, coupled with a cultural/linguistic recognition of Spanish speakers, could actually be a positive move. “We’re listening, and either is ok” is one way it could be interpreted. I think its a valid voice branding approach, because the branding adapts to the speaker’s natural inclinations.

    In quite significant contrast to Pepsi, though, is the story of Nestlé who, through the spoken messages in its advertising ‘told’ customers they had been pronouncing the name wrongly., Its meant to be pronounced as Nestlé not Nestle, we were clearly told. Today most people and places other than parts of Germany use the revised pronunciation, but personally I never foundthe the name change process comfortable, nor did I think the changed pronunciation sounded as comfortable or friendly.

    Tim Noonan
    Vocal Branding Australia

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