Creativity Brand Strategy

Pepsi announces limited re-release of Crystal Pepsi, joining wave of '90s nostalgia plays

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

January 4, 2022 | 6 min read

Time to bust your baggy jeans and Rebook pumps, Pepsi has announced that it will be reviving Crystal Pepsi for a limited time. The 30th anniversary stunt looks to build upon the momentum behind '90s nostalgia and Pepsi brand sales.

Crystal Pepsi

Crystal Pepsi is making a comeback. Are baggy jeans and iPod Minis next?

Pepsi announced today that it will be launching a limited re-release of Crystal Pepsi, the brand’s infamous clear cola product that first hit supermarket shelves 30 years ago. The new stunt plays into the growing trend among brands attempting to leverage 90s nostalgia.

Originally launched in 1992, Crystal Pepsi is a soft drink that could be mistaken for sparkling water, until you take a sip and realize that it packs the full sugary punch of Pepsi’s signature cola. Although it was only available for two years, it has ingrained itself in the American memory of the 1990s — along with baggy jeans, Reebok Pumps, Goosebumps books, Tamagotchis and the like.

Years after it disappeared from the shelves, fans organized online and made a sufficient uproar to prompt the brand to announce in 2017 that it would be temporarily reintroducing Crystal Pepsi. The Facebook group “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi” currently has well over 7,300 likes. The page’s credo: “For too long, Americans have suffered an indignity of outrageous proportions. We were bestowed upon us a light, crisp and refreshing soft drink which, by the miracles of modern science, tasted like regular Pepsi but happened to be clear…We were bestowed a gift. We want that gift back."

Now Pepsi has announced that it will yet again be releasing a limited number of Crystal Pepsi to supermarket shelves. According to Duane Stanford, an editor and publisher at Beverage Digest, this is a move that is typical of soft drink companies that are seeking ways to remain relevant and attractive in the eyes of consumers. “One of the things that Pepsi has done for decades is use limited-time offerings to get people talking about their brand again, and these days, to get them to share it on social media…” he tells The Drum. “That's [one] way to, in essence, energize your core brand, to get people talking about it again. And that's what you're constantly trying to do, especially [if you’re] a brand that’s been here a long time.”

'90s nostalgia on the rise

The limited revival of Crystal Pepsi also seems to be part of a general trend towards '90s nostalgia that has recently been permeating the world of marketing. Over the past few years, a growing number of brands have realized that the revitalization of trends from the 90s can be an effective way to tap into the hearts, minds, and wallets of millennials, those most mercurial of consumers. Though it’s far from an exact science, there’s a popular school of thought which maintains that cultural fads tend to re-emerge in the zeitgeist every few decades. By this logic, in ten years or so, we’ll probably see a reemergence of early 2000’s gear (hold onto your iPod Minis, kids, they might be worth a fortune someday).

“There is real power in 90s nostalgia as it brings back so many positive memories for our consumers. That’s why to kick off 2022, we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Crystal Pepsi by tapping into the memories and emotions of 1992,” says Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing at Pepsi.

Despite the fact that Pepsi’s announcement to revive Crystal Pepsi is a familiar tune unlikely to make much of a long-term splash, Stanford says that the brand as a whole has recently been “firing on all cylinders.” He says the company is “...thinking about their brands, they are executing it retail…they've got more of a strategy overall that incorporates their beverage portfolio in a way that's really helping them get traction now.” And he says it’s paying off: “In the last year or two, they've actually been able to pick up share in a market where they had been lagging.”

Pepsi isn’t the only soft drink company that’s been investing heavily in branding. Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s biggest competitor, has also been undergoing a major revitalization effort. Coke recently launched its “Real Magic” ad campaign, which the brand hopes will produce a spike in sales.

Pepsi says that it will be rewarding 300 fans with a free Crystal Pepsi. To enter for a chance to win, consumers are invited to tag a picture of themselves from the 90s on Twitter using the hashtags #ShowUsYour90s and #PepsiSweepstakes.

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