A new mid-calorie sibling has joined the Pepsi family. Pepsi Next was created for current full-calorie Pepsi drinkers who are looking to reduce their calorie intake without sacrificing taste. As for the name of this new bundle of reduced-calorie joy? Next, please.

 

BRAND EXPRESSION: 2/5 (Poses Hurdle)

One of the ways we evaluate a name’s brand expression is judging whether the name supports the corporate namescape. Well, yes this name does. But in this case that’s not such a good thing. The Pepsi namescape is rather hard to navigate. There’s Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Throwback (sweetened with “real sugar”), Pepsi Max, and Pepsi One.  And along comes Pepsi Next.  The major differences between all of them are the sweetners used.  What’s the difference between Max and Next? What does Max mean? More calories?  So for a namescape that was already lacking a clear, cohesive brand message, Pepsi Next does just fine.

On the other hand, I have to say this name does speak to the Pepsi brand spirit – which has always stood for youth, for now, for innovation – next to the classic heritage-driven brand spirit of Coca Cola. So while I don’t think it serves the brand as the name of a beverage, I think Pepsi Next sounds like a perfect name for a Pepsi-sponsored youth innovation summit or an ad campaign. Oh wait. It already was. Way to scrape up misplaced equity from a retired ad campaign:

 

CONSUMER IMPACT: 1/5 (Disastrous)

A beverage is something people put IN their bodies, so generally people want to know what’s IN it – or something concrete about it, even if it’s suggested metaphorically. For instance, we didn’t counsel Juicy Juice to name their new juice product: 35% Less Sugar Juice, we named it Fruitifuls – so immediately people know it’s about fruit but the unexpected combination with the familiar –iful suffix suggests a number of positive associations – fruitful, beautiful, full – encouraging Moms to probe deeper as to what’s in the package. So, the name takes about 2 seconds, requires a few more axons to fire than 35% Less Sugar Juice – but that 2 seconds is a good thing, it’s what makes that name “sticky” from a mnemonic/psycholinguistic perspective.

But let’s think about the consumer experience when they see Pepsi Next. The only information they have is: Pepsi and future. They have nothing about taste, contents, calories, etc. A closer look at the packaging will explain that it’s 60 calories per can, but still there’s no connection between that product benefit and the words in the name (Pepsi and Next). The only story the consumer is left with is that this is next in Pepsi’s lineup – a new form of Pepsi. It’s one of those names that probably sounded great in the boardroom (“We’re showing consumers that this is the next greatest Pepsi! It’s screams innovation!”) but flops in the shopping aisle. There’s no cleverness, no reward when those axons fire to try to figure out the name.

So, I’m not saying Pepsi needed to get completely literal with product benefit or attributes, but a suggestion of something pertaining to what’s in the can, and not just vaguely about the brand, would have been nice.

And what will this name look like when another Pepsi sibling is born? What’s next after Pepsi Next? This is a reason why we hardly ever speak directly to the concept of “innovation” or “future” in a brand-name – doing so (ironically) eliminates the name’s very ability to be future-proof.

Particularly in the soft drink aisle, where versions proliferate faster than US obesity rates, names have to work pretty hard to grab consumers’ attention. Thus, when a name is too amorphous, it doesn’t entice people. There’s a fine line between having to take a couple seconds to figure out an unexpected, suggestive brand name (something like Fruitifuls) and having to pick up the product to look at the ingredients and/or Google it to understand how it’s different from it’s siblings and competitors. And thus, the problem with Pepsi Next.

COMPETITIVE DISTINCTION: 2/5 (Poses Hurdle)

And this is all in stark contrast to its #1 competitor Coke with their clear, simple trilogy of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero. A trilogy so clear that it’s often used as an explanatory basis for Pepsi products. I, along with countless others, am definitely guilty of describing Pepsi Max as “the Pepsi version of Coke Zero.”

Pepsi Next strives to be different than the rest by not simply relying on a number (like Coke Zero or Dr. Pepper Ten) but their attempt is in vain because the cost of the dearth of consumer connection here outweighs the benefit of competitive differentiation.

NAME GRADE: 5/15 (D)

How are our Name Grades calculated? Read about our rating philosophy and process here.