A Marketing Fad… Clearly.


Crystal Pepsi

Crystal Pepsi

The other day, I was driving to work when the radio played a blast from the past: Van Halen’s Right Now, circa 1992. Even before I started my marketing career, I was always attuned to advertising and marketing. Exhibit A: the song didn’t take me back to any college parties, but rather planted a clear image in my mind of Pepsi’s short-lived 1993 flop, Crystal Pepsi, and its advertising campaign.

Let’s face it: it’s easier to piggyback on an existing idea or trend and somehow still get some credit for it. At the time, it was somewhat of a fad to market “clear” versions of products – the theory was that consumers would equate clarity with purity. Ivory Soap was the first, remaking their classic creamy solution into a clear (and presumingly pure) liquid.

Enter Pepsi, with its own clear concoction, Crystal Pepsi. Launched at Superbowl 1993, below is one of their 30-second spots:

What exactly is Crystal Pepsi? Precisely what it sounds like: a colourless version of its cola self. Not a citrus-infused drink like many other clear, non-cola beverages, but simply one that tasted suspiciously like regular Pepsi. So what was the point?

Hence Crystal Pepsi’s meteoric rise to… nowhere. But all is not lost. After all, it provided valuable material for Saturday Night Live, who didn’t waste a second to pick up the pieces and rearrange them into something disturbing, albeit hilarious.

Lessons learned? Pepsi the drink has been around since the 1890, although Pepsi the brand was trademarked in 1903. Think twice before screwing with your brand just to unjustifiably jump on the latest lemon-scented and new-improved bandwagon.

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