How a single mistake from PepsiCo led to riots in Philippines!

Beverages such as soft drinks and energy drinks run on maketing campaigns and advertisements. But one such famous incident in Philippines changed the whole scenario. 

Pepsico (Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc.) started manufacturing Pepsi (in Philippines) from 1989. For sales promotion they had a campaign called ‘Pepsi Number Fever’ or the 349 incident. They printed numbers, ranging from 001 to 999, inside the caps of Pepsi, 7-Up, Mountain Dew and Mirinda bottles. There were prizes for certain numbers ranging from 100 pesos (1.95 USD) to 1 million pesos (approx. 20K USD). 

Pepsi Number Fever was initially wildly successful, and increased Pepsi’s market share from 4% to 24.9% but they did one blunder. Two bottle caps were supposed to have the number 349 with a security code number (which was the grand prize) but because of a computer error, 800,000 regular bottle caps had also been printed with the number 349 (but without the security code).

Thousands of Filipino rushed to the PCPPI plants demanding for money. An emergency meeting between the executives of PepsiCo and PCPPI was called at 3:00 am. The company offered 500 pesos (that time $18) to holders of mistakenly printed bottle caps, as a ‘gesture of good will’.

This offer would be accepted by 486,170 people, at a cost to PepsiCo of US$8.9 million. But thousands of them did not accept and demanded the grand prize, many of them also formed a consumer group the 349 Alliance, which organized a boycott of Pepsi products, and held rallies outside the offices of PCPPI and the Philippines government.

Many were peaceful protests but once a riot broke and lead to death of 5 people (3 workers from PCPPI). PCPPI executives received death threats, and as many as 37 company trucks were damaged by being pushed over, stoned or burned. 22,000 people took legal action and finally everything was settled by year 2006. Surely PepsiCo will never forget this event!

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