How PepsiCo is leveraging design thinking to build its brands for ‘future societies’

Since the appointment of the company’s first ever chief design officer Mauro Porcini in 2012, PepsiCo has steadily been working to implement design thinking through the entire business to drive innovation and better understand its consumers.

Porcini was ushered in three years ago by chief executive Indra Nooyi at a time when PepsiCo's brand building was beginning to feel the impact of shifting consumer habits. Now Porcini feels the shift internally to embrace design has been “dramatic” despite some initial fears.

“PepsiCo understood the value that design could bring,” he said, speaking to The Drum. “I was [actually] ready to face the reality of 270,000 people in the company resisting the change but the company was hungry for a different way to build brands. It understood that society was changing, changing radically in the way you build brands because of social media, and they understood they needed to evolve the way they were brand building so when this new culture arrived actually I felt much less resistance than what I was expecting.”

Design at PepsiCo now plays two key roles; one is to work across its portfolio of existing brands, which include Pepsi, Doritos and Quaker, to develop meaningful, consistent experiences across all their touch, and the other is in innovation. Porcini is leading a new approach to innovation through design to identify new opportunities for its product platforms and brands in a “society of the future” influenced by social media and digital messages.

One product borne out of this new thinking was Pepsi Spire, a digital drinks fountain that puts consumers in control and allows them to personalise their drink with up to 500 combinations. A diverse team of designers, marketers and scientists developed the touch screen dispenser to offer consumers a more in depth interaction with PepsiCo brands. Speaking at the time of launch last year Brad Jakeman, PepsiCo's president-global beverages group said the company wanted to make Spire “as intuitive as possible and find the perfect balance between consumer engagement and efficiency."

With all brands battling for cut through in the social and digital age - both online and in a retail setting - PepsiCo is using its newly implemented design thinking to try to achieve a competitive advantage. “Design plays a key role in this because essentially design crafts the story it manages the visual language, the look and feel and the DNA of these brands,” explained Porcini.

“Design thinking is really about three different things: empathy of people – what drives people emotionally and rationally – it is the ability to strategise and then the ability to use proper storytelling in the process to craft solutions relevant for those people. So empathy, prototyping and strategy are the three key assets that the company is adpopting by leveraging design in collaboration with the marketing function and the other functions in the innovation process.”

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