It’s not unheard of for companies to attempt to hop on the bandwagon of certain pop culture trends, riding their coattails for some potential buzz. Some companies have been quite successful in changing up their social media presence, such as Wendy’s who started the “sassy Twitter” trend, roasting companies and customers alike. Other companies seem to miss the mark, not really understanding the sense of humor of their demographic.
One company that has been historically on the wrong side of marketing is Pepsi. Nobody can forget when they tried to convince the world that Kendall Jenner and Pepsi could end police brutality. So, it’s safe to say that Pepsi has not always had the greatest understanding of their customer base.
On September 17th of this year, Pepsi unveiled their latest marketing…tactic…of sorts. They launched a 24/7 YouTube livestream that continuously plays lo-fi music.
The livestream is officially called “LoFi Radio: Beats To Sip To | Pepsi” which is a reference to ChilledCow’s famous “beats to relax/study to” livestream. And really, the whole operation is a replication of the ChilledCow stream. There are a couple of backgrounds that have small, repetitive animations, and of course, a Pepsi logo in at least one location. One of the stark contrasts between the two streams is the amount of viewers: at the time of writing, ChilledCow’s stream has 40.6k listeners, and the Pepsi stream has 9 (including me, begrudgingly).
The other main difference is in the songs itself. I listen to ChilledCow pretty often when I’m doing homework, and I have never noticed a song repeating itself, though even if a song did repeat I likely wouldn’t notice because most of the tracks are instrumental. Pepsi’s lo-fi tracks are not ordinary lo-fi, though. They all have words. And those words are all about Pepsi. And there’s only three songs.
There is a lot to unpack there. First, why in the whole. hell. would Pepsi bother to have a 24/7 live stream that cycles between three songs? I imagine a dusty, forgotten computer that is the only thing keeping this livestream equivalent of a wounded horse alive. The whole appeal of a lo-fi stream is that you can have it playing in the background and focus on other things. Nobody, even if they enjoy the three songs that loop forever, would hang around the stream for very long.
The problem is that the songs are horrible. Here’s an example from one of the tracks:
Pepsi is different when you need a drink / You’ll take a sip and be cleaning the sink / Pepsi is different when you’re trying to think / You’ll do your homework in only one blink
So, apart from this song making Pepsi sound like some sort of illicit amphetamine, the lyrics remind me of something I wrote my freshman year of high school when I discovered Eminem, needed inspiration for lyrics, and saw a Pepsi can on my desk.
I think that my biggest issue with all of this is just that it doesn’t make any sense. Lo-fi is inherently meant to be relaxing, and Pepsi, a caffeinated beverage, is hijacking the genre and taking away its main appeal with lyrics that are not relaxing. Most importantly, there is no reason for the livestream to exist if they’re going to repeat the same songs over and over. It makes me wish that I could have been a fly on the wall for the meeting that inspired this…creation.
And honestly, I feel so bad for the 20-something recent marketing graduate who received this assignment from a higher-up and was forced to create something that they knew was not good. Discovering this stream makes me think that there is just no subtle way for product placement to exist in music in the same way that it does in movies and TV shows.
If you take nothing else away from this, I’d urge you to stick to Coke products because they would simply not do this.