How to Make Products That Stick (With PepsiCo's Chief Design Officer)

Download MP3

When I started to read your book to prepare for this conversation, I was like, okay, this is going to be yet another inspirational design book. And I'm going to be, I'm going to enjoy it because of the stories, but I'm not, am I going to be able to action anything out of it?
Not really. And then I started to read and then I was like, okay. Okay. No, that's different. So I like the fact that there is tangible specifics in there and I want to cover them today.
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour, and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers. com the no fluff actionable marketing podcast for people sick of marketing bullshit. I'm your host, Louis Grenier. In today's episode, you'll learn how to create life changing innovation through meaningful design. My guest today has 47 patents to his name.
He was called the new Steve Jobs by Italian media. He's leading the PepsiCo design function. And that very function, that very team has been recognized with over 1, 700 awards. Crazy. My guest's approach and vision is quite inspirational, and I hope that I'll be able to dive into the actionable part of his vision and all his success and perhaps some failures as well.
Anyway, Mauro Porcini, welcome.
Mauro: Thank you for having me, Luis, and hi everybody.
Louis: So in your book, you mentioned human centricity versus consumer centricity. And you say human centricity is about understanding people to build real value in their life. How is a can of Pepsi, let's say the latest Pepsi cherry can design bringing value?
How is it bringing value to people?
Mauro: Well, it's really about trying to understand what people want from the products and the brands that surround them. And sometimes you search convenience. Sometimes you search simple fun, distraction, engagement. Safety, security. It depends on the product category. It depends on the moment of the day.
It depends on what you're doing. So through the portfolio of the brands that we have in our company, we always try to understand what people are looking for when interacting with a product category. First, for instance, refreshment. I drink because I'm thirsty and I drink because I like something specific.
And then through the brands, It could be engagement, it could be fun. It could be a moment that is light in a life that often is heavy in a world where we're bombarded by news that often are not that good in the past few years. So sometimes you just need to escape. And so some of our brands play also the role.
But again, human centricity is not about finding ways to sell stuff to people. So I'm going to create brands that help me selling more soda to people. But human centricity is first of all, about understanding how to create something meaningful to people. And then obviously if we are in business, we need to grow the business.
Obviously there is a connection to the business, but the starting point is this idea of creating value that is so typical of our design world. I'm a designer. That's what you learn at school. You don't learn. To sell products to people, you learn to create meaningful solutions to their needs and wants.
And then obviously they tell you, by the way, you also need to sell them this stuff, but it's a secondary thought.
Louis: So if we take the example of the recent massive brand redesign you've done for Pepsi, the actual the brand Pepsi, not the group Pepsi, like the kind of cherry Pepsi, Pepsi cherry, for example, is, I don't know.
It's sexy. I want to hold one in my hand, but I don't want to, I don't want to influence you too much, but to go back to this, then what is the value of this can? How did you imagine? The value that it's bringing to people.
Mauro: Well, first of all is the product itself. So Pepsi, the cola is something that people have been drinking for ages.
The people love what we're trying to do is to make this product as permissible as possible over the years. So this new focus on zero sugar is a big part of our strategy. So this redesign of Pepsi is all focused on that idea on celebrating black. That is the color of zero sugar in the category in all the communication is focused on the black, on the can.
The visual identity system is blending black and blue so that we can have a master brand approach that give us the possibility once again, always to communicate zero sugar. Even when we talk about the entire portfolio product. So there is first that kind of value. The second is brand driven and is the pleasure of connecting with something you just like, you just love.
You know, you said it earlier, I would love to grab that can, you know, there is something sexy in it. And this is something, you know, that we look for. You look at something on the shelf or you look at it in a commercial or you look at, for instance, on a sphere. The big sphere in Las Vegas. We just come from Super Bowl.
We took over the sphere for a few days. That big brand and the video, the content, the animation, the motion graphic we create on it. People were loving it. You know, there is a very visceral kind of reaction to something that, you like and it is engaging. And so that's a form of value as well.
Louis: So you have a, like, let me be honest for a second.
I mean, I'm always honest, but let me be very honest for a second. When I started to read your book to prepare for this conversation, I was like, okay, this is going to be yet another inspirational design book. And I'm going to be, I'm going to enjoy it because of the stories, but I'm not, am I going to be able to action anything out of it?
Not really. And then I started to read and then I was like, okay. Okay. No, that's different. So I like the fact that there is tangible specifics in there and I want to cover them today. Not all of them, but there's a few that I found very interesting, especially the application of it. So maybe let's apply that to the, to the scan of, of Soda we just described.
You mentioned those three vectors. Right? Of how to make sure that you hit the right note in your design, right? All the way to making sure that, you know, it's going to work. So you have empathy, getting into the mind and spirit of the person. Strategy then, does it make sense from a business point of view?
And then you have prototyping. And I love the way you say it, right? Which is, it's not just about testing ideas, it's a catalyst for thinking, right? So did you go through those steps for every single bit of redesign of the Pepsi range? Or did you start with the overarching Pepsi brand and then trickle it down to every single item.
Mauro: Well, we went through all of them, but there is not a specific phase in which you are in one and then you move to the other is all blended together. And is also the redesign was not a project with the beginning and an end it's something that organically grew within the company over the years. So the full story is that I joined the company in the summer of 2012.
And back then the company, just before I arrived in 2009, redesigned the Pepsi brand. And so when I joined the company, the CEO back then, Indra Nooyi, asked me to help launching the design across the globe, just a few markets. The United States and few other countries embrace that design. And then many others were still using the previous visual identity system, the previous logo.
And so I found myself right away in the company, Baptism of Fire with a mandate. of trying to unify the globe around the new design. So the first thing I did talking about empathy was to talk to people, talk to consumers, the people we sell the products to, talk with customers, we bought this and talk to many business leaders and executives inside the company all around the world.
What I realized very quickly was that a lot of people was thinking that that design back then didn't have all the energy that the previous designs of Pepsi used to have. So now we just launched the design a few years before it was already in some of the markets. We needed to figure out what to do with it.
So we decided to do a few tweaking. We redesigned a little bit. We call that project Big Ball Blue. It was 2013, the year 2013. We changed the blue and we made it more saturated with more energy. We made the globe much bigger on the can. We changed slightly the typography of Pepsi without. People, you know, realizing it too much, but there was a change.
So we did a few things to ignite the energy inside the brand. And finally we were able at the end of 2013 to launch it globally. But that's when with that launch, that's when the redesign of Pepsi, the new project that we launched this year started. Essentially I knew already back then that sooner or later we needed to redesign this brand.
For years, we've been doing limited edition packaging, all kind of events, activations, experiences to help infusing more energy into the existing visual identity system. And in the meantime, we were prototyping solutions for the future of this brand, our testing ideas. So as an example, if you go back to the Super Bowl Activations, advertisings, the key visuals of the past three, four years, you will see many of the elements that then we used in the new identity system on Pepsi that we just, we just launched.
For instance, this blending of blue and black is something you will find in the visual identity of our activations. For instance, when we still had the halftime show, the way we were depicting all the different singers. We were using this filter, black and blue, the polls that is in the new visual identity was there.
So essentially we were prototyping different ideas already over the years. And we were trying to understand what would make sense for the brand. The strategy component is this big focus on zero sugar, the need of being able to communicate zero sugar, even when we do portfolio communications. So you see, these are a few examples of empathy, strategy, and prototyping working together.
But the idea that came organically over the years that we test and prototype over the years. We consumers, we customers, it's something very important of this design has been extremely successful for us so far. But one of the key drivers of this success is, was not, it is that he was part of the culture of the organization.
It was grown within the company, was not a project with the beginning and the end.
Louis: So two things here, first, thanks for explaining that in detail. When you mentioned you talk to stakeholders, you talk to, even customers, what did you want to find out? Right? Like maybe if you could tell me the number one question that led to the best insight.
Mauro: Well, it was a very easy one. Why you're not embracing this new design? Why you're not taking it? You know, I'm talking about 2012, 2013. There was a rejection. And now this is the very important question that you are asking me. Essentially, I could have. I've taken the mandate of rolling out the design worldwide and going to these people and try to convince them that that was the good design to go with.
And by the way, if you're a good storyteller, you're charismatic, you may be able to convince these people. But as a designer, you know, trained in design thinking, I needed to understand why people were not embracing it. And I do this all the time with myself as well. If I push for something that I really believe in.
Or if my team is pushing for something that we all really collectively believe in. And we see that many people, reject that. We ask ourselves, are we doing something wrong? Now, as I, you know, in this moment I'm sharing this and you're like, well, of course, if all these people reject your idea, of course, you're asking yourself if you're doing something wrong.
The reality is that often innovators think that they are right. And often eventually they are, and they think that just people don't get it. And this is part of innovation. I mean, when you do innovation, when you change the game, a lot of people will not understand what you're doing.
Louis: Yeah. In fact, it's a sign that is done right.
Right. If you have people who hate it or challenge it, but just to challenge you on this briefly, before I forget, you said you asked them, why are you not embracing, let's say the brand? Why is it not like, you know, the problem that I see with this is. People don't know what they want, right? It's very difficult for people to express those inner desire, you know, the system, one thinking the emotional thing, right?
So how do you bridge the gap between what they told you and the actual truth?
Mauro: Well, in this specific case, we were lucky because it was kind of easy to explain that they were missing the energy. Now they know that they were missing the energy. They wouldn't know what that means, what kind of design they really needed.
Their answer actually was, Let's keep what we have. And it was not, we need something different that is leveraging eventually the energy of the past, but projecting the brands toward the future. So often, sometimes you're lucky and they tell you at least what they're missing the most of the times they don't.
And so this is where empathy becomes very important in connection with strategy. So you need to understand what they are. trying to tell you by observing their behaviors, how they react to a stimuli, a product, you know, a visual of any kind. That's why stimuli, prototypes are super important. You need people to react to things.
That's, that, that's why also we often polarize with the stimuli. We have different kinds of prototypes to test different kinds of extreme situations. So once. You start to observe the reactions, then you need to understand how to translate those reactions into something different, a new stimuli, a new prototype that then you bring back to them and you start to validate ideas.
This is the scientific method. I mean, it's nothing new. It's been used in the scientific community for many, many years, eventually not in the marketing community, but in the scientific community, this idea of experimenting. And then testing ideas. And then you evolve that idea and you create a new experiment in design.
We call it design thinking is the double diamond. You diverge, you prototype, you converge, you get more insights. Now you diverge again. Now to do all of these, something that often though, we don't talk about for the people talking about design thinking or in marketing, in the business world, what we don't talk about is that you need a specific kind of.
Sensitivity, of IQ, of empathy, of ability to decodify those insights, to understand people, to translate them in something that is strategic for the brand and for the company. So that's why.
Louis: Can you train people to do this, do you think? Or is it not something that's part of you?
Mauro: I think you can, but let's say, you know, this is how I describe it in the book.
There are these 24 different characteristics of these people and we are all born with them. Like we're born with the ability to walk, the ability to interact with objects, you know, we're born, you know, with certain kinds of abilities. Some of us have them more than others. I guess that Serena Williams or Djokovic of, of, of Tom Brady, of Maradona were born with very good athletic skills. Some of us are born with more empathy, with more kindness, with more confidence. You know, we're all born eventually with some of these traits develop, develop more, you know, when our life starts, but the rest is all education and training. This is so, so important. We know even with the IQ, you know, it's been proven that even the IQ that you think, well, a person is born intelligent or not, even the IQ, you through training, education, and practice can increase.
So this is true with everything. So now, the first step though, is to be aware of what are those traits that you need to be trained on. I give an example. I'm pretty sure that out there, the millions of people out there living in the world, I'm pretty sure that there is people that if they were trained in playing, in playing tennis or playing soccer or playing football, would be better.
Today, then Serena Williams, Maradona, or Tom Brady, but eventually they didn't have the opportunity. of unlocking the skill or discovering that their ability. So this is true for everything. If in business, they don't tell you that kindness is important. They don't tell you that curiosity is key to grow.
They don't tell you that the love for diversity is super, super important to nurture creativity and innovation. If they don't tell you that certain skills are important, you're not going to practice them. You're not going to invest in them. So first level is awareness. We need to understand what is important.
Once you're aware, You need to invest in that. You need to understand that life is a never ending learning experience, and you need to practice them every day. So once you start to practice them, and you invest in your education, and you build, you know, those skills, those muscles, then you take yourself from a basic level to, you know, a better level.
And eventually, even if you are not bored, The most empathetic person in the planet or the most resilient, you may become more resilient or more empathic than people who were born with those characteristics in a very, you know, in a very good way.
Louis: In fact, your mom said that you were born with your eyes wide open, looking in the room, taking things in.
I found that very funny as an anecdote. So, but thank you for going that into that in depth. I just want to go back to this initial project that you had to take on basically from the day you started, right?
Mauro: Yeah.
Louis: So you talked to people, you asked the questions, you felt there was something missing. They couldn't necessarily express it in specific details, but you knew there was something.
Am I wrong to assume that the number one reason you talk to those people wasn't to know what to change or whatever. Am I wrong to assume that it was, you know, there was something else in your mind, number one goal. Was it more like alignment perhaps that, you know, when you co create with them and when you ask them questions, they are involved in it and therefore they're more likely to accept and adopt the next thing?
Mauro: Well, no, there is also that, but I was genuinely trying to understand why they were not embracing the design. I mean, it's a very important question to ask because we are all born with biases and blind spots driven by our background. I know this very well. I'm Italian and I have my background and my biases as an Italian.
I'm a designer and I have my biases as a designer. So when I talk to people with a different kind of culture, born in different places, different kind of professional background and many other form of diversities. I am driven really sincerely by the curiosity of understanding if I'm missing something because, you know, it happened to me, this realization came to me the first year of university, many, many years ago was 1994.
First year of design university. We go to ergonomics class and the teacher tell us a story of how you design the cockpit of a train. I don't know if you call it cockpit anyway, the command center of a train. And essentially she told us there is the mathematical certainty. that this train sooner or later will crash.
Even if it happened once in the future of this train, you know, that one time needs to be avoided in some form or way. This is how they designed this kind of command control, these cockpits of trains and planes and everything. Starting from the assumption that for sure things will go wrong. There is not, you know, maybe, for sure things will go wrong.
And so because of that, they create a series of backup systems. So if something goes wrong with the command, there is a backup system. And then they start from the assumption that for sure, even the backup system will fail. And so there is a second backup system and a third backup system so that you reduce the probability of failure to the minimum.
So I was thinking, you know, as usual, I was there listening to the lesson and my mind was trying to capture those insights and fly, you know, in other dimensions that, you know, I've been always like this at school and, and I connected it right away to my life. I am 100 percent sure that in the future, I'm going to make mistakes.
We all make mistakes. It's very easy to understand, you know, something like this. If we look back, each of us, you, Louis, myself, everybody listening to us, we can identify some mistakes that we did in the past. Now, while you are doing that mistake, were you aware of doing that mistake? The most of the times we don't.
We think we're doing the right thing. So it means that in the moment, I will make a mistake in the future. I will not be aware that I'm about to make a mistake. I may make a mistake right now, talking to you about something that I shouldn't talk about, or using the wrong words or using the wrong attitude, the right, the wrong tone of voice.
I know. That I have a risk of making a mistake. So that day I told myself, how can I have my backup system? How can I reduce the probabilities of my mistakes as we do in design? And the best way to reduce the probability of mistake is to ask people around you. Surround yourself, first of all, with people with insights.
It could be your team, find the best of the best of the best. But then it's people with different kinds of backgrounds, different kinds of point of views in the world. Most of the people reject people that are different from them. It's the problem of racism. It's the problem of diversity in our world. But it happens also in the business world.
Marketers thinking that designers are just crazy, you know, creative people. Designers thinking that marketers don't just buy. They just don't get it. You know, they're so focused on business. And so there is this arrogance of professional communities not talking to each other. And instead, if we start from a position of respect, and if we know that the kind of conversation can decrease your probability of making mistakes, we could really do a better job, you know, in everything we do.
And so this is what I do all the time. I surround myself with people that are different from me and I ask them questions all the time with real curiosities and it's enough, you know, one word. One sentence that, that I didn't expect that could help me avoiding that mistake and changing my biases and be a better designer.
But mostly in the long run, this is a magic formula for becoming a better person.
Louis: So two things.
First, what you just described there is. It's proven by science, right? It's been proven that the more you surround yourself with people who are different than you, the more like the company will be profitable.
I was trying to look into the research on this, but it's actually backed up by a lot of research on that. So that's one thing. But the second thing is, can you think of one? example of a mistake that you've avoided, thanks to a team member, someone in your, you know, network or whoever you talk to that prevented a big mistake, right?
Mauro: I mean, there are for sure a lot of examples. There is one that I often talk about because it changed really my perspective in life. It was about 20 years ago, I was in my previous company, 3M, the tech company from Minnesota. It was actually more than 20 years ago. So it was the year 2002, 2003. I just joined the company.
I was living in Italy and I packed my suitcases and went to St. Paul, Minnesota to pitch this idea of design in the company.
You know, I was pitching, pitching with so much energy and love for what I was talking about and everybody in the rooms, in the different meetings I was having, were in love with what I was talking about.
At least that's what I was thinking. You know, the people were reacting in a very positive way. They were engaged. They were like, Oh my God, we, you know, we really like your perspective, your point of view. So I remember going to, the EVP of the consumer business of the company was my sponsor, Dr. Monozari, going to his office and telling Dr. Nozari it's great. It is going to be so much easier than what we're thinking. Everybody's loving this vision of design. They are embracing it. And you know, it's going to be great. And Dr. Nozari, there was always a very serious man that day was more serious than ever. He looks at me and he tells me.
Everybody's lying to you. What do you, what do you mean? And I was thinking, you're not, you are not in the room. I was in the room, you know, and I could feel them. I have great empathy and IQ, you know, that's what I was thinking. I feel the people, Dr. Nozari, you were not in the room. And he goes on and he tells me, I'm telling you that everybody is lying to you.
And then he explains what he meant with an analogy. He told me, imagine if you are in an art gallery and you have a beautiful piece of art in front of you. You really, really love it. And you have a lot of money in your pockets. What do you do? You probably buy the piece of art. Well, Mauro, you and design, you are a piece of art in the 3M art gallery.
And there are many other pieces of art and the people that are looking at this art, the people you talk with, they have plenty of money in their pockets because me, Dr. Nozari, I gave them the money. I gave them the budget. I know how much money they have to spend. None of them is buying you. None of them is giving you money to start projects.
There was such a haha moment that changed literally, my life. The mistake I was making was to fall in, to be in love with my ideas and thinking that everybody listening to me would be like, Oh my God, you know, they love, they will love what I was talking about. The second mistake was to misunderstand the engagement that was in the room.
Maybe because I was a passionate speaker with a real commitment. in doing things. And this is human nature. We love to think we are loved. And so often we are blind to people rejecting us. They reject us because maybe they're uncomfortable telling you the truth. Maybe they're not, they don't want to be nice and they want to be nice, but in reality, they don't agree with you.
There are many reasons why people may reject you and you don't realize. So that day, I develop a very simple technique to identify the people that are with me from the people that are not. The people that believe in what I'm saying from the people that don't. It's very simple. I ask the people in front of me after I speak about something, I ask them a commitment.
Ask them a sacrifice, do a sacrifice, give me a commitment. It could be financial. Give me the money to start a project. It could be, give me people, resources. It could be just expose yourself with me on a stage saying we're going to do this together, but you need a commitment. A commitment that changed my life because it helped me identifying the 90 percent of people.
This is statistic once again, the 90 percent of people that usually do not embrace a new idea. There is just 10 percent of people in the worldwide population that embrace new ideas at the very beginning. So I need to find that person out of 10 because it's with those people that I'm going to change the company.
I call them the co conspirators and this technique of asking them a commitment is a very good way to identify them very quickly and then start things together to build the proof points, to build those prototypes of those ideas, to prove your idea. And then the more successes you start to have, the more people will come to you.
And they will be like, we want to be part of this. We want to be with you. And I will ask once again, are you ready to invest? Are you ready to commit? If they are. We work together and we grow those proof points and those prototypes.
Louis: So isn't the, your main backup plan to consider that everyone is lying, right?
Like as a first, first layer, let's consider everyone is lying to me. And the only way to do this, to design a backup plan is. Prove me otherwise, right?
Mauro: Well, more than that, I, my backup plan is more than that is thinking that I am failable and I, as I'm speaking right now, I may make a mistake. Let's do not confuse that with lack of confidence.
You need a profound inner confidence, but also the ability to understand that you may be wrong. And the confidence, if you have a real confidence, then the confidence give you the possibility to ask the right questions, to admit your mistakes, to change direction. That's the ultimate proof of leadership.
Too many people instead think that because they're in leadership positions, they need to have all the answers. The reality is that we don't. I mean, the Socrates already thousands of years ago told us that the wise person is the one that knows of not knowing anything. And this is something you realize.
With years, you know, we are born not knowing much. Then we start to learn when we're teenagers. We learn more and more and more. We go to college. We learn more and more and more. We get out of college. We think we know it all now. You know, it starts when you are a teenager, you push back on your parents.
I'm getting ready, you know, in a few years for my daughter to do the same thing in my head, I'm already like, so, but then you spend your life realizing your ignorance, or at least the smart people realize that they're ignorant. The less smart people, they think they're extremely intelligent and they stop growing and they keep making mistakes over mistakes.
And because you know that by yourself, you cannot gain enough knowledge to overcome any kind of risk of mistakes. The best way is to connect your knowledge and empathy and sensitivity and point of views on the world with the ones of others that you respect, or eventually the ones that maybe you don't respect because they have different point of views, but they may bring to the table something that even if their point of view is not the right one, could force you to change yours, to develop a different kind of approach to life.
How many times, for instance, you support a political party, you cannot stand the other, and how many times people just reject the other, they just don't want to listen while by listening to another point of view in politics. First of all, you may tweak your point of view. I'm not saying that you're gonna, you know, change completely mind.
You're going to go on the other side, but maybe you're, you will appreciate things in way more depth. With, you know, understanding the nuances of things. It may even reinforce your beliefs, but reinforcing them and validating them by being exposed to the opposite thesis, it may even, you know, help you finding a new position, very different from the one in the past.
So to think that we know everything is the stupidest thing you can do in life.
Louis: So I get emails, I would say every day, or I see things almost every day from folks in the marketing space who don't feel confident, right? They are overwhelmed with, you mentioned earlier, information, the news, the others doing better than themselves, or at least that's how they perceive it on Instagram or whatever.
All right. And it blocks them from doing what they feel they really want to do. And instead they do what they think others expect of them. Right. That's roughly what happens, right? Similar question than creativity is, is confidence, inner confidence, the way it describes something that can be taught. What do you advise to folks listening right now?
Feeling this way?
Mauro: I think it can be taught. I'm not an expert. So take it, take what I'm saying with a grain of salt is a designer talk, you know, I'm not a psychologist or something like this, but I do a few things. First of all, put things in perspective. If you make a mistake, so what, especially if you are a leader, create a culture within your organization to allow these mistakes, because it's from mistakes that real innovation comes.
There is not real innovation without missteps and mistakes. It just doesn't exist. The problem is that in the business community, we call these missteps, mistakes, in science, we call them experiments. And you know, that to arrive to one patent, one innovation, you need thousands of experiments. So build an organization, a culture, a financial algorithm that allows for mistakes and processes to extract knowledge and insights and data out of those mistakes.
So we don't do them over and over again. Because that's not plausible either. But again, it's creating the right conditions. But if you are part of that team, you're not in control of managing this, put things in perspective. You make a mistake, something goes wrong. So what? I mean, life is so much bigger than that.
I was a few days ago in the Bryce Canyon National Park. You know, I love to go in nature and you are exposed to nature and you, you just appreciate the power of nature and the universe. Or I love those videos. They show you a specific point in the inner on planet earth. And then you start to zoom out, you know, you're in the sky, you see the sea and then the planet, and then the planet become dust in the universe.
And even the universe, our galaxy. See, it's dust in the universe with all these many galaxies. And then you go back and think, okay, I am the little particle, you know, the little dust in the little planet that is insignificant in the world. You put everything in perspective and you reconnect yourself with, you know, with something, with this eternal flow, putting things in perspective and understanding that, we have one life and we need to live it to the fullest and it's fine to try to make mistakes, to try to live it, to really make your mark, to really make the difference. So that's one thing. The other one is by far more practical and pragmatic. Train yourself. Study, get knowledge, be curious, that is going to build your confidence, talk to people, talk to as many people as possible, go to conferences, listen to podcasts like this one.
I mean, knowledge is very important and curiosity is the driver of the knowledge. Also the love for others. You know, the connection with others, being in love with dialogue with other people and, and discovering different kinds of cultures. I tell always my team, do not take a flight to go from your office to another office, from New York to New Delhi or from New York to, without, if you have the possibility, if you don't need to run back to your family or your other, you have other commitments, but without, exploring the city where you go, especially if it's a city you've never been in. I, I just gave you the example. I went to the Bryce National Park and to the Zion National Park in one day, a few days ago, because I was in Vegas for Super Bowl. And instead of taking the flight in the morning, I was going to fly all day from Vegas to New York.
I decided to fly in the night and spend the day exploring the park where I've never been. I did the same last year when we went to Phoenix and I spent a day, I drove four hours to go see the Antelope Canyon. I do this all the time. It's not just in nature, but trying to carve out time. By the way, I didn't lose any work in day because I flew in the night.
But even if I did, I tell my people, don't worry about losing one working day, because in that one working day that you're spending to discover a new coach or discover a new reality in the worst case scenario, you're going, you're coming back to work with so much more energy and so inspired just by what you have been witnessing in the best case scenario, you may even be exposed to something that inspire you in a real project or in something you're doing in the company.
It's not necessary, but for sure you're coming back richer than before and with more energy. And so often we are there looking at, you know, people, curious people that get exposed to what's going on in the world in a negative way, because eventually they're not, you know, they're wasting time. They're not doing that extra meeting or going back to the office right away.
Yeah. The reality is that the best way to inspire them and to grow people within the organization and going back to confidence, all this knowledge, the more, you know, the more you're exposed, the more you build, you know, that inner confidence that then help you sharing your point of view in a meeting or trying something that may feel risky, but at the end of the day, maybe really rewarding.
Louis: Thanks for your passion, man. I can feel it in my bones, even though we're far apart. I really appreciate it. I really do. So if you go to.
Mauro: You just mentioned something. First of all, I appreciate the fact that you pause to thank me for my passion, because you need a certain kind of empathy and sensitivity.
To appreciate that the, but I really believe in the power of passion and I will take it to the next level, the power of love, because in a is an expression of that, the subtitle of my book is The Human Side of Innovation. The subtitle is The Power of People in Love with People. And there are three forms of love that I think synthesize everything we should do in business, in society, in the world.
The first one is the love for what we do is what you're witnessing right now. I just love what I'm doing. And, and there are many studies that prove that people that love what they do, they're better performer in, in everything they do. Study with tons of statistics and data. They show really that passion drives performance.
The second form of love, Is the love for the people we serve. We started this conversation like this. We were talking about the need because it's a need and desire of designers to solve the needs and the desires of the people out there, the consumers, the customers, and, and in a sincere way. I tell you, I'm not here.
I I'm grateful for PepsiCo, but I'm not here driven every day by the idea. How can I make more money for my company and driven every day by the real, authentic idea of how can I create something meaningful for people? Now translated in other words, how can I create something cool for people? People, you know, that people will fall in love with so they can go and brag with my friends.
Look, I did that. You know, I did that. I created value. Everybody's talking about this because they love it. It was fun or it was useful. It was safe. I've been working in a company for many years. I was creating products that were all about safety and security. As an example, you know, there are different levels of benefits, but the designers are driven by this idea of creating something that.
Make sense in the life of people now market that should do the same more and more. Hopefully they will do the same because it's the best competitive advantage you can build for your company in this world.
Louis: The only one left really.
Mauro: Is the, I agree because the big barriers to entry made of scale of production, communication and distribution are crumbling down under the winds of globalizations, new technologies, social media.
Louis: You said three forms of love. So. Yeah. What we do, the people we
serve, and what's the last one?
Mauro: And then the third is the people surrounding you. So it's really bringing others with you and is, is driven by this idea of empathy. This idea of kindness. We don't live anymore in a society where one woman show or one man show can change the game.
There is such an hyper specialization in all the fields, you know, in marketing, in digital, in design, in science, that you need teams. And the best way for teams to work properly together is connection, kindness, synergy, empathy, respect, love for diversity of thinking. You need all of these. And you summarize all of this in the idea of love.
And if you care about the people around you, if you care about the people you're serving, if you care about what you do every day, you're going to change the game.
Louis: Let's perhaps finish this conversation with one example. That I think is a good summary of your ethos, right? In practical terms. So let's go back to the past with Back to the Future 2, which at the time, so if you saw, if people listening have seen the movie, there is a moment in the DeLorean where they go back to the future on October 21st, 2015, right?
But at the time of the movie, it was like, obviously 30 years ago or something. Anyway, you, not you, but someone, your co, one of your co conspirators had an idea. Can you just briefly tell me
what it was?
Mauro: Yeah, it was Martin Broen. Today is the VP of innovation and industrial design in my team. He just joined the company.
He was passionate about the movie Back to the Future. And he knew there was the anniversary coming soon. And when I say soon in about two years, that game was October, 2015. So we started the conversation in 13. And the idea was, why don't we reproduce? The Pepsi that Michael J. Fox or Martin Mayfly in the movie ask in his future, when he goes to the future, he asked for a Pepsi and he arrived instead of the normal Pepsi he was used to, Pepsi Perfect, the Pepsi of the future.
And so we decided to pitch this idea to the business organization and create this beautiful Pepsi Perfect bottle to give to influencers and create bars and everything. And everybody loved the idea. Everybody loved the idea, but nobody wanted to make it happen. Nobody had the money. It was not fitting. So what did we do?
We prototyped it, we made it. And then we started to pitch it again. And now people were like, Oh, interesting, but I don't know.
Louis: Before, before you go too fast. Cause I want to touch on that point because I think this is probably one of the most important piece of advice from that story is the prototyping.
So tell me more about how you prototype it. And just because podcast is not a very visual channel, even though this is on video as well, the Pepsi Perfect bottle is like this kind of curvy shaped bottle with the blue top on the big label. Definitely looked futuristic then, and I would argue still looks futuristic now, which is probably a good product placement.
So anyway, with that in mind, why again, did you do that at prototype and how did you do it?
Mauro: Well, prototypes are very important. First of all, that was an easy one because at the very beginning, we didn't even need to prototype much. We printed the picture of the existing bottle. Then we started to make mockups in form.
And then as soon as possible, we started to create more realistic prototypes. We wanted to have people excited. Look at it, touching it and be like, Oh my God, this is so cool. We need to make it. And this is the power of prototyping. There are many different levels of power. The very first one actually is alignment.
Understanding what you're talking about. You know, people need to see things. For instance, if I say knife right now, you're going to visualize. A specific knife in your mind. I visualize a different one and the people listening to us, each of them will visualize a different one. But if I sketch a knife, all of a sudden we are aligned around that idea of knife.
So when you go to a meeting, when you are pitching an idea, create something visual so that people get what you're talking about. Even if you're sure that people understanding how many times you've been in a meeting, you think everybody understands. They go out and they all go in different directions because they got lost in translation.
We all filter things with our sensitivity. So the first power of prototyping is the power of alignment. The second is, well, once I sketched a knife. I designed a knife. There will be, I don't know, the marketer in the room that We'll tell me that the brand is not visible enough on the blade and there will be the ergonomist that will tell me that the handle is not comfortable enough.
And a lot of people will think, well, Mauro did a very bad design, a very bad sketch or a very bad prototype. But this is instead the power of design thinking in action by creating the sketch. I am unlocking the potential of the team. I'm enabling people to start a conversation on how to better that design, how to make it better.
So the prototype doesn't need to be perfect by far. It needs to just be the visualization of an hypothesis. And that is going to unlock very powerful conversation to better the design. It doesn't mean by the way, that the idea of the market is the right one. He may tell me that the brand is not big enough and I will tell him or tell her why.
It's not big enough. And we'll have a conversation. And so that's great. So this is the very second power of prototyping is this ability to better the products and the idea. And then there is a third very important value that is the one. That that we mentioned just for this specific project is that what I call the power of the shiny object.
When you prototype and you put this thing in front of people, if it's done in the right way, people will get excited because before being CEOs or investors or buyers, we're human beings and we get excited by cool, meaningful. objects, solutions, experiences. So once you get people excited, you will unlock their sponsorship, their support, sometimes their funding and resources.
But this is very important in the process of innovation because you need sponsors to push ideas that usually the organization, the culture of the team, we reject by definition because people tend to reject everything is different than you.
Louis: So you said the power of the shiny objects. If it's done properly, what do you mean?
What's the number one mistake to avoid?
Mauro: Well, first of all, I specified that because to excite people, you need the right solution and the right solution, you know, is I could summarize it in three different layers of benefits. The first one is the functional benefit. It needs to solve a specific problem.
The second one is the emotional benefit. It needs to attract you, engage you personally. You look at it, you're like, wow. You look at a Harley Davidson, you're like, I love it. You look, you look at the Dyson vacuum and you just love it. It's different than any other vacuum that is out there. A beautiful Prada suit.
So is the, is driven by the product. And then there is a dimension of emotional value that is driven by the brand. Maybe the product is just, you know, a normal product, but that brand make it special. It happens all the time in fashion, in a variety of different luxury product categories. The third dimension is what I call the semiotic benefit.
When something is so, you like it so much, That you want to share the news with others. It could be a great experience that you had in a vacation. It could be a beautiful product that you bought, something you're wearing, something you're driving, something you're reading, but there is engaging so much that you want the world to know about this.
So essentially it's a product or a brand or both of them. Sometimes it's just the brand. Sometimes it's just the product. Ideally should be both that engage you so much and give you an emotion so strong that you want to share it with the rest of the world. So now go back to your investor, your CEO, if you create something that obviously solving the problem that your company is trying to solve with your, with the product and the brand that is exciting for that CEO.
And is exciting at the point that the investor is going to talk about this to the rest of the world. That is. Great. Now, one of the problems you may face is that your CEO may not be the target audience. You know, you are designing something for young girls, teenagers, and your CEO is a white male, you know, in his sixties.
So you need to somehow recreate enough context, enough information about your target audience that your CEO will put himself in the shoes of the target audience, of the young girl. So bring to life the world. of the people you're talking to, and, you know, make sure that you are really projecting the kind of words so that SEO will see the product.
They will be like, well, I, you know, emotionally it doesn't say anything to me, but I totally get why my daughter would love something like this.
Louis: And long story short, you launched that bottle on the exact time and exact date from the movie. So October 429 AM and sold out within minutes. And then you had to do a relaunch and relaunch.
And one last point about all of this, and I love the way you describe it, the power of the brand and how it brings this kind of emotional benefits to life. It's why I think something that Pepsi PepsiCo, the group is doing very well at the minute is the licensing part, right? Like the teaming up with others, creating like cross collaboration or whatever you want to call it.
I think that's something that is quite inspirational, even for folks who might just be solopreneurs or freelancers or whatever, there's always a way to associate yourself with brands that already have some sort of a something, you know, that your audience has, but it's a good shortcut sometimes.
Mauro: Yeah. And it's not an easy one because you need to understand, first of all, if you do a partnership with another brand.
What is that brand that can create a perfect dialogue with your brand? It could be the marriage of the opposites. It could be luxury with mass as an example, or it could be instead brands that are very similar somehow, and they find the perfect connection. It could be that one brand becomes the platform for collaboration.
It's not just doing it with you, but it's doing with multiple brands or your brand could become a platform of that collaboration. One recent example of this is Puma that has been doing over the years, multiple collaborations with different kind of pop culture brands from Barbie as an example to Pepsi a few years ago.
And now we just, we're just launching for the NBA all star game. This collection of Pumas with Cheetos. So Puma in this case is a platform and is having fun literally with multiple brands, and we'll be one of those players. And, and so this is an example, but creating this kind of dialogue is very powerful because if it's authentic, if it's a real, if it makes sense for the brand, people love it.
They buy the product, they become your ambassador, your storyteller. It happened exactly when I was talking about the semiotic benefit. You know, you, you are really leveraging the moment to the extreme. You're going to have people creating user generated content, content for you. People will fall in love with that Puma, Pepsi hoodie or Pepsi D square or the Air Jordan.
We gatorade and a variety of different Cheetos for with Forever 21. They will fall in love with those collaborations, those items. We wear them. We share them. We'll have fun with it. We start engaging conversations, but you didn't really understand the equity of the brand to do it right. It's not easy.
Louis: Yeah, you need to have taste and it takes fucking years and years and years to develop. So you've been an absolute pleasure, Mauro. Thank you so, so much for your passion. I'm just going to summarize very briefly the conversation. One last question after that, and then you can, you can create more designs.
So we talked about the, just to go back to the, at the end, you talk about the three layers of benefit, emotional, functional, emotional, and semiotic. We talked about licensing or like that creates this kind of, you know, user generated content, talked about prototyping. I love that point that you made about how prototyping is not just about testing an idea.
It's about alignment. It's about making better products about, you know, leveraging the power of the shiny object. We talked about the three forms of love, what we do, the people we serve, uh, the people surrounding us. And then when I ask about confidence, you talk about. Putting things into perspective. So what if we make a mistake and to train yourself to be like curious and to genuinely cultivate that.
There's a few more at the start, but like, I feel the double diamond stuff, this I'm thinking, I agree. People should learn about that because it's basic, but it's so powerful. But yeah, you've been an inspiration, man. Thank you so much for your generosity. I can, I can feel the passion every, every word you speak.
So that's always really good. Last question. What do you think marketers should learn today? that will help them in the next 10, 20, 50 years.
Mauro: The power of love, understanding and decline in those three dimensions. Forget about growing your brands. Forget about growing your business. Start with creating value for people and everything else will come.
Don't do it in a vacuum. You are a marketer. You know, your business, you know, your shit. You're really good at those things, but start. Putting people first and visualize them as if they were your daughter, your son, your parents, your friends, those are the people you're serving. Try to create something phenomenal, extraordinary for them.
It doesn't mean you're going to be able to do it from night to day is done. It doesn't mean that you're going to change your industry, your company, your brands from night to day is a long term journey. But be driven by that because it's the best competitive advantage you can build for your company.
It's the best value you can build for society, but mostly it's the best value you can build for yourself because it will give so much more meaning to your life.

Creators and Guests

Louis Grenier
Louis Grenier
The French guy behind Everyone Hates Marketers
How to Make Products That Stick (With PepsiCo's Chief Design Officer)
Broadcast by