Pepsi’s perfect future still hasn’t arrived

Matt Hauke, designer, picks up the Back to the Future Day Brand Baton, and discusses the ambition behind 'Pepsi Perfect', and why it was a hit... and a miss.

Pepsi’s ‘Pepsi Perfect’ featured in Back to the Future 2’s vision of 2015, when Marty and Doc crash the future and see how the world might have changed.

Pepsi’s slogan in 1989, “Pepsi. A Generation Ahead”, nicely aligns to the ideas portrayed in the film and establishes a clear purpose for Pepsi. This is reflected in Pepsi Perfect as it is packed full of nutrients and vitamins to form part of the ‘perfect meal’ – an ambitious, idealistic and altogether more human approach to the Pepsi brand. This philosophy is evident in the logo used in the film; circular, geometric letterforms with sharp edges, typical of late 80s design.

The rounded style is significant as the future (and the sense of pioneering human innovation) is often depicted through a softer aesthetic. One only has to look at examples of retro-futurism art and the NASA logo – arguably the only organisation to represent the peak of ambition and human discovery – to see examples of this design trend.

It was this ambitious thinking that led to the creation of Pepsi Perfect – why can’t Pepsi be part of the perfect meal?

Now, I applaud any brand with ambition, especially if it has a human cause at its core. However, Pepsi has failed to deliver on the promise it made in the film. With the upcoming release of a limited edition Pepsi Perfect to commemorate ‘Back To The Future Day’ you can imagine my disappointment when I hear the wonderfully curved and space-age bottle is filled with nothing but plain, old Pepsi. The ambition and thinking has been lost, replaced by a tacky ad campaign with the purpose of cashing in on this special moment in cinematic history.

Pepsi have struggled with consistency throughout their history with multiple logos and a myriad of slogans. Whereas Coca-Cola has stuck to its guns,with a clear purpose and message that resonates through all of its touchpoints. In addition, Coca-Cola once again pipped Pepsi to the post with an attempt, albeit unsuccessful, of fortifying a drink with vitamins and minerals: Diet Coke Plus. This was 2011. Are you watching Pepsi?

The special edition Pepsi Perfect is an example of Pepsi’s inconsistencies: it promises one thing, but doesn’t deliver when the time comes. Yes it has moved to a lower-case, geometric and more human logo but it’s not living its brand. In other words, it’s not quite The Real Thing.

You can read more about Back to the Future Day and whether the featured brands were successful in predicting their future in our Creative Director, Natasha Chance's article over at The Drum.