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Will a PepsiCo-Branded Phone Find Any Success?

When it comes to branding and marketing, food companies often find themselves in a sea of change and uncertainty. It seems like every day, new rules and regulations emerge that make it more and more difficult for producers to advertise their products, from new labeling requirements to new dietary guidelines. And there’s always the threat of a hiding class-action lawsuit regarding false advertising.

No doubt about it, food marketers are in a pretty tough spot to ensure that their products reach their intended audiences. These challenges sometimes lead to lackluster campaigns, or a focus on what has worked well in the past. Innovation can sometimes be stifled in these types of environments.

And sometimes, an idea so out there comes along that you can’t help but question: is this idiocy, or is this genius?

PepsiCo takes the award this week with the announcement of a Pepsi-branded smart phone called the Pepsi P1. The phone is said to use the Android operating system and will debut in Beijing on Oct. 20, according to MobiPicker. It will feature a 5.5-inch display screen and retail for about $205.

A PepsiCo spokesperson informed an Adweek reporter that the product is limited to Chinese markets and is “similar to recent globally licensed Pepsi products which include apparel and accessories.”

This move, which seems to be completely unique for a packaged-goods brand, is fascinating for many reasons. Most importantly though, there is a question regarding the demand for this sort of product. Could Pepsi be inventing the market for branded smartphones? According to Pew Internet Research, as of October 2014, 64% of American adults owned a smartphone. The items are constantly in the hands of consumers, and adding a branded version of the phone provides the opportunity for “mini-billboard” moments, if you will, on a regular basis. The potential for native advertising opportunities and other branded experiences on the phone could also promote Pepsi with its core users.

On the other side, there’s a really good possibility that this kind of promotional item will fail. Unlike a t-shirt or hat, a phone is an item that consumers typically use every day over the course of several years. Perhaps Pepsi’s most ardent consumers would jump at the chance to use a branded phone, but I suspect most will laugh at this one as a curious novelty.

I guess we’ll see at the Beijing premier in a few weeks.