Design Thinking Case Study: Pepsi & Consumer Experience

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Design thinking was originally developed as a way to create new products. But PepsiCo took design thinking in a new direction, thinking about the experiences of their customers. This case study examines the impact of that decision.

Design Thinking

Have you ever mixed two sodas together to get just the flavor you want? Or made a lemonade-tea mix? It's a pretty universal thing, mixing drinks together to meet your taste preferences. So why don't more companies make it easier to do that?

Those questions drove PepsiCo to rethink the way they do business. It also caused a revolution in design thinking, which is a way of designing products to meet customer needs. Design thinking is about keeping the customer in mind from the beginning.

But PepsiCo didn't just apply design thinking to products; they applied it to the entire consumer experience. To understand what they did and why it matters, let's take a look at their user experience design thinking.

Case Study: PepsiCo

When CEO Indra Nooyi hired design thinking expert Mauro Porcini in 2012, PepsiCo was struggling. They had a portfolio of businesses that covered snacks and beverages. But they weren't sticking out in that crowded sector.

Porcini was hired as Chief Design Officer and was tasked to bring design thinking to the company. Most people at the company immediately thought of packaging when it came to design. They believed that Porcini would simply tinker with the design of the package. But Porcini and Nooyi had other things in mind.

They focused on the user experience, or how consumers use and interact with the product. What were Pepsi customers experiencing when they bought a product? What would make their lives easier? These were questions that guided their approach to user experience.

By asking these questions, Porcini and Nooyi were doing something revolutionary: they were taking design thinking out of products and packaging, instead focusing it on the entire user experience. They wanted to know how to make customers happier and what they could do to make their experiences with Pepsi products better.

Pepsi Spire

One of the results of this user experience design thinking was a new product called Pepsi Spire. It's a completely new type of soda fountain. Before, mixing drinks at a soda fountain involved physically moving your cup from drink to drink, pressing the lever, and trying to mix to the proportions you like. For example, you might want 75% of your drink to be Pepsi and another 25% to be Mountain Dew. So you'd fill your cup about three-quarters of the way with Pepsi and then the rest of the way with Mountain Dew. You'd have to mix them together with a straw.

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