Pepsi Max was designed around the height of Energy Drinks and aimed at the male demographic (aged 20-40) because it was mostly a female demo that drank diet drinks. They even used Jeff Gordan (Nascar driver) as a spokesperson to gain the attention of rugged, testosterone filled guys. It seemed like a good idea. However, with cola sales in decline Pepsi has decided to rebrand Pepsi Max as Pepsi Zero Sugar. The branding still includes "maximum taste" on the can, but clearly they've shifted gears. At least, here in America.
Ironically, while the brand Pepsi Max has struggled with consumers in the U.S., in the European market the brand has outsold it's traditional Pepsi products to become the focus of the company's attention. Yet the market seems to constantly misunderstand Pepsi's message when it comes to branding the product. Often they're giving away cans of Pepsi Max in city centres in Europe with "educators" to spread the gospel of zero calorie sodas. Coke does the same.
But back in America, their commercials are still voiced over with a male voice. The can retains its masculine black can. So what's going on? Apparently, the reformulated Diet Pepsi which changed its main sweetener upset quite a few people. Sales dropped and Pepsi is trying to regain a market share by bringing back Aspartame soda. This goes to show you, when it comes to junk food (including diet soda), the market cares little about what perceived health benefits you gain, at least when it comes to taste. Much like the infamous New Coke reformulation that's now a text book example of what not to do in business, Pepsi is panicked to fix its mistakes. I guess in their rush to fix Diet Pepsi, someone said, let's do something about Max too.
Yet, other than stealing from your competitor, it's nomenclature: Coke Zero, Pepsi Zero seems to miss its mark when it comes to repairing the company's marketing failures. Not only is there a question about the legality of marketing under such a name, but the company continues to market to a demographic that does not generally make the purchasing decisions when it comes to grocery purchases. I get it, it looks attractive to re-brand to a Coke Zero doppelganger when they outsell you, but it's just confusing your customer base more and alienating more of your market with their male focused branding. Whether or not we are actually stupid, Pepsi needs to stop using four letter or less words: Max, Zero, Diet. It's clearly not working. Sell a story, a lifestyle, not a warning message that we're all going to die of heart palpitations or diabetes.