The Pepsi Universe

| February 10, 2009

Nothing in Common“, starring Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason, is one of those films that comes back to me at odd times in snippets. In it, Hanks plays an ad executive who struggles in his relationship with his father (Gleason) after his parents divorce. But for me the best parts of the film show the internal workings of the ad agency where Hanks is employed; I often think of those scenes when I see a particular advertisement or ad campaign that strikes me as goofy, pretentious, or ill-conceived.

Now, as you may know, Pepsi recently changed its logo (see above). Some have speculated that this was done in imitation of the Obama Presidential campaign logo, but frankly the old Pepsi logo looks more like the Obama logo than the new one does, so one could more reasonably argue that the Obama campaign modeled their logo after Pepsi (“Choice of a New Generation!”).

So, how did Pepsi come up with this new logo, which is basically the old one rotated slightly and tweaked in the middle? Well, one would think that they simply took the old one, rotated it slightly, and tweaked it in the middle.

One would be wrong. (PDF document, 6 MB)

Instead, according to this document from the Arnell Group, the product design firm involved, the new Pepsi logo is based on extensive analysis not just of all previous Pepsi logos and trade dress, but also of fundamental design principles and the creation of the universe itself. Right off the bat, we learn that:

  • “The investment in our DNA leads to breakthrough innovation and allows us to move out of the traditional linear system and into the future.”
  • “The vocabulary of truth and simplicity is a reoccurring phenomena in the brand’s history. It communicates the brand in a timeless manner and with an expression of clarity.”
  • “BREATHTAKING is a strategy based on the evolution of 5000+ years of shared ideas in design philosophy creating an authentic Constitution of Design.”

And that’s just getting warmed up. Later on, we learn about “the Pepsi Globe Dynamics” in which “emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity.”

OK, that last phrase deserves special attention:

Emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity.


And then we wind up with the following:

Attraction Theory: The Pepsi Proposition
Establishment of a gravitational pull to shift from a “transactional” experience to an “invitational” expression.

Which leads to the following equivalences:

  • Typical Light Path — Typical Shopping Aisle
  • Light Path with Gravitational Pull — Gravitational Pull of Pepsi
  • Relativity of Space and Time — Pepsi Proposition / Pepsi Aisle

I didn’t get into the expansion of the universe being compared to “the Pepsi Orbits” which “dimensionalize exponentially.”

Breathtaking. And it confirms ever suspicion I’ve had about product design and advertising since watching “Nothing in Common.” They really weren’t exaggerating. If anything, they were undertstating the case.  Hat tip to the ever-entertaining Metafilter.  ..bruce w..

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Category: Business, Humor, Main

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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  1. The New Pepsi Logo … « Econ 479 | February 11, 2009
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  1. Bruce Henderson says:

    Interestingly enough, my wife, a life long Pepsi drinker, has abandoned the Pepsi Orbit due to the Obamafication of the light path. Being somewhat a down to earth linear lady, she could not relativistically adjust when the Pepsi Universe moved out of the traditional linear system and into the future, sadly emitting Cherenkov radiation in the process, killing off their invitational expression. Perhaps they should have re-though the dangerous effects of augmenting their light path with that much gravitational pull.