Consumers Are Buying Brand Experiences Rather Than Products

"People don't just buy products anymore, they buy meaningful experiences."

27/05/2016 5:26 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST

Why would a soft drink company require a chief design officer? Surely, for PepsiCo, it's just a matter of filling up a can, moving it to the consumer, who will empty it, right?

Consumers around the world are not interested in individual products anymore, according to Chief Design Officer of Pepsi, Mauro Porcini, rather in the experiences around those products. Which is where he comes in.

And it's not just about repackaging the product to create a different customer experience -- it could be designing barware to make serving soft drink a little bit posher, or developing solar-powered carts that can distribute cold drink to parks and public spaces on a hot day.

PepsiCo/Kareem Rashid
It's a little bit fancy... The Kareem Rashid-designed barware range for PepsiCo, featuring aluminium crafted bottles.

And the design and innovation team is even challenging the traditional "open the fridge and choose a drink" model. The 'Spire' drink fountain range was designed for users to create their own soft drink, by choosing from up to 100 different flavour combinations.

Speaking at the World Business Forum in Sydney on Thursday, Porcini suggested changing markets meant brands with histories as long and detailed as Pepsi now need to provide customers with meaningful "journeys" to remain relevant.

"There is a focus on building brands that are as meaningful as possible in the society of the future. Design isn't about the shape of a product, but the way of thinking of the company," Porcini told The Huffington Post Australia.

"As society is changing with the proliferation of new kinds of products, so is the understanding of what are the right brands that can really be meaningful for the people of the future."

Formerly of materials-science multinational 3M, Porcini is Pepsi's first appointed design officer and was the brains behind Pepsimoji, the combination of the brand with emoji characters, and Pepsi Perfect, the recreation of the famous drink featured in the Back To The Future trilogy.

The company was present this year at Milan Design Week, the peak industry fair which used to be filled with furniture makers, but is catering for broader tastes as design goes corporate.

Getty Images for Pepsi
Porcini moderates a forum during Milan Design Week, where new packaging ideas and distribution methods were presented for PepsiCo products.

In 2012, he was named as one of Fortune Magazine's "40 Under 40: Business' hottest rising stars" for his work with 3M in building a design-based approach for the technology-centered conglomerate.

"At 3M, technology was at the centre, at Pepsi marketing and branding is something really powerful. For us as designers it's about looking at the three markets of people, business and technology and leveraging them to drive innovation," he said.

In his address, Porcini explained that consumers are connected now more than ever before due to social media and the internet, leaving innovators needing to fully understand their brands and how they can serve their target audiences.

"It's about a deep understanding of what the brand stands for. When I came to Pepsi that was the first thing I looked to gain, this idea of celebrating the excitement of now, the excitement of the moment, the fact that Pepsi is a timely brand," he said.

Looking to the future, Porcini believes the way brands design their approaches towards their consumers will dominate innovation in years to come.

"I think that it's going to be totally important and embedded in any organisation. Design is spreading across any industry. In the future everybody will do it so you will need to be the best design leader."

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