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Design is the bridge connecting business, innovation and consumers at Pepsi

When design meets the heartbeat of consumers, PepsiCo was like, "Let's rewrite our story, you know?"

Design isn't just about making things look good; it's like this bridge connecting businesses and the hearts of consumers. At PepsiCo, design isn't just some fancy decoration; it's like a core value, woven into the very fabric of the company's culture and processes. This has helped the company to come up with all these cool and innovative products and services that connect with consumers.


How did it all start?

Former CEO of PepsiCo. Indra Nooyi.

When seeking ideas to elevate the brand's presence in stores from her senior executives, she knew something was amiss.

She recalls, "Every time I talked to our people about redefining what our products looked like on the shelf, they always came back with a new set of colours, literally like putting lipstick on a pig."

But Nooyi wasn't one to give up that easily or even follow the usual playbook.

She gave all the executives, around 20 of them at that time, a photo album and a camera. They were like, "Hey, in the next three months, take pics of anything you think is cool design." It could be a pencil, a notebook, or a cutout from a catalogue – anything that looked visually appealing and they thought the company should know about and bring back the photo album in three months.

After three months, only half of them bothered to bring it back. And out of that 50%, half of them hired a fancy designer to take the pictures and fill the album. They thought Nooyi just wanted to be impressed instead of seeing if they understood the design. Some others even had their spouses take the pics.

She realised the company had a huge issue: the employees didn't get what design was all about.

Indra Nooyi on the left & Mauro Porcini on the right ©Catalyst
Indra Nooyi & Mauro Porcini ©Catalyst

And that is how Mauro Porcini, the design evangelist at PepsiCo enters the scene.

Shifting the focus to customer experience and making design a priority, Porcini spearheaded transformative initiatives. From the innovative Pepsi Spire touch-screen fountain machines to a dedicated line of women's snacks, PepsiCo redefined how consumers interacted with products. Porcini's approach ushered in a more consumer-centric PepsiCo, where design thinking became the driving force behind groundbreaking changes.

What is it in for you?

Applying the lessons from PepsiCo's design journey to your brand. Here's a simplified guide inspired by PepsiCo's approach:


  1. Spot the Design Gap: Take a critical look at your brand's look and feel, and how customers experience it. Pinpoint where design can give your brand a facelift and boost engagement.

  2. Engage the Higher Ups: • If your team is small, get everyone on board. Make sure every team member or stakeholder grasps how design can propel your brand toward its goals.

  3. Cultivate Design Understanding: Shake things up by tapping into your team's creative side. Host design workshops or training sessions. Let the team rediscover the joy of design principles. Share inspiring resources and examples for a fresh perspective.

  4. Embrace User-Centric Design: Zoom in on the folks who matter – your audience. Understand their needs, frustrations, stories and preferences around your product. Use this goldmine of info to tweak your brand strategy, creating an experience that sticks in their minds.

  5. Maintain a Design Repository: Document everything. Did you know PepsiCo has an annual book showcasing its journey over the years? Your brand can do the same. It's not just a reference; it's proof of your brand's evolution.

  6. Foster a Design-Centric Culture: Bring design to every meeting table. Encourage a culture where everyone is not just aware but actively contributes to your brand's visual identity, values, culture, and vision.

  7. Seek Professional Guidance When Needed: No shame in seeking expert advice. Even Indra Nooyi had no clue about design either and brought in Mauro Porcini to work wonders. If your brand needs that touch, go for it.

  8. Measure and Adapt: Keep tabs on the impact of design changes. Metrics like customer engagement, brand perception, and sales can be your compass. Let them guide your future design decisions. It's the pulse of your brand's health.

So, roll up your sleeves and let there be design. 🕯️

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