For years, Pepsi was the "Choice of a New Generation." The iconic tagline was used in Pepsi advertisements throughout the 1980s, but now the breakfast cereal company MOM Brands is repurposing the phrase to market its Better Oats instant oatmeal. Bob speaks to MOM Brands corporate communications manager Linda Fisher about using an old tagline for a new product.
BOB GARFIELD: For years, Pepsi was the “Choice of a New Generation.”
That iconic tagline was made famous with ads throughout the 1980s, including this one featuring Michael Jackson.
[PEPSI AD CLIP/MICHAEL JACKSON SINGING]
Now it appears that with a new generation comes a new choice. The instant oatmeal brand Better Oats is repurposing Pepsi’s old tagline, using it in a new marketing campaign. The move appears perfectly legal. Pepsi says it hasn’t used the line since 1991, and the company’s registration on the trademark expired in 2006. But, is it a good idea?
Linda Fisher is corporate communications manager for MOM Brands, formerly known as Malt-O-Meal, the parent company of Better Oats. Linda, welcome to On the Media.
LINDA FISHER: Thank you, Bob. Happy to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so you guys did some dumpster diving. You took a disused [LAUGHS] tagline from Pepsico. What were you thinkin’?
LINDA FISHER: Well, we registered the trademark when we discovered that Pepsi had abandoned it. We did that in 2009, and it really went in what we call “the good idea drawer.” And we were in our second year of promoting Better Oats. You know, you can’t replay what you did in year one. It’s not new, it’s not interesting to the media. We’re putting this campaign together and we thought, we still don’t have a hook. And we remembered what we had in the good idea drawer, and that was “Choice of a New Generation.”
BOB GARFIELD: I don’t know what your advertising budget is. I imagine it’s something close to zero. Your marketing program is built of spit and baling wire.
LINDA FISHER: [LAUGHS] Spit and baling wire and some good ideas to garner media coverage and social media word of mouth. That’s really where we spend our time in marketing. We do that because our whole mission as a company is to provide better breakfast at a better price. So what we don’t spend on advertising, we – give back to the consumer in the way of great cereals, great tastes, every morning, at a great price.
BOB GARFIELD: Is there anything else I can do for you, Linda? First, I am fulfilling your PR vision by, by having this conversation with you on national radio. And then I just let you do an ad for MOM Brands. Is there anything else I can do for you here at On the Media? Oh yeah, let me play your jingle.
[“CHOICE OF A NEW GENERATION” JINGLE]
So tell me the mechanics of this.
LINDA FISHER: We went to a crowd sourcing company who put out a creative brief to their creative network, and we sat down and watched over a hundred 60-second videos submitted. And we thought, well, we’ll go with this amateur named Josh Anderson, a guy in black pajamas with white piping, doing a song and dance act, singing a song about 23 flavors of Better Oats.
BOB GARFIELD: Now, you registered the trademark and, you know, paid the government whatever, a hundred dollars, to make it yours, but that doesn’t necessarily end Pepsi’s legal claim against it. It can claim residual good will and say it is so associated with our brands that these people really don’t have the right to it, no matter what the registration says, and take you to court.
LINDA FISHER: It probably would have objected when we registered for the mark, because that’s typically when the objections surface. And they didn’t do that.
BOB GARFIELD: In a perfect world, the best thing that could possibly happen to you is for them to –
LINDA FISHER: Would be to have them sue us.
LINDA FISHER: [LAUGHING] Yeah! [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: This publicity you’re getting for free right now would be a drop in the bucket. Is that the plan?
LINDA FISHER: No, we are not baiting Pepsi or, or Quaker with the trademark. They didn’t object when we registered for it. We have it. We’re having some fun with it. And we didn’t have to pay for it.
BOB GARFIELD: Now, with the stipulation that this is not the Lord’s Prayer we’re talking about, it’s a tagline for sugar water, I’m curious if there’s any risk of backlash: How dare they expropriate something that I remember so fondly with respect to Pepsi-Cola?”
LINDA FISHER: Boy! I doubt it. But that –
-that’s a bad answer, Bob. [LAUGHING]
BOB GARFIELD: No, that’s a very good answer.
Linda Fisher is a spokeswoman for MOM Brands, formerly known as Malt-O-Meal.
BOB GARFIELD: So Brooke, I was thinkin’.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That’s never good.
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, I was thinkin’ about this retreaded slogan thing?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah?
BOB GARFIELD: You know who could use some good slogans?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Go ahead.
BOB GARFIELD: The candidates for the Republican nomination.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Because none of them’s really been able to hold the public’s imagination?
BOB GARFIELD: Exactly!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, for instance, what did you have in mind for Ron Paul?
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] The Calvin Klein perfume.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm?
BOB GARFIELD: “Between Love and Madness lies Obsession.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGSH] Go on!
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, Fiat, the, the Strada. Fiat Strada had one that would work perfectly for Romney, “Handbuilt by Robots.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] How about, I liked it so much, I bought the company. Or how about, uh, Heinz Foods?
BOB GARFIELD: Heinz Foods? [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You know, “57 Varieties, of Romney!” [LAUGHS]
BOB GARFIELD: Okay. [LAUGHS] L’Oreal, “Because he’s Worth It.”
Yeah, but you got anything for Newt Gingrich?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coors, “The Silver Bullet.”
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: More of a musket ball.
BOB GARFIELD: He has some checkered marital history. Maybe Playtex.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The bra?
BOB GARFIELD: “Lifts and Separates.” [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Don’t forget Santorum. Like Hebrew National, “He Answers to a Higher Authority.”
BOB GARFIELD: Or – mm, yeah, you know the Urban Dictionary?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah?
BOB GARFIELD: “With a Name like Santorum, it Has to Be Good.”
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, who gets “Home of the Whopper?”