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PepsiCo Design & Innovation On Crafting A Beverage For Gamers

by Rudy Sanchez on 07/31/2019 | 5 Minute Read

There’s no doubt that eSports—that's competitive video gaming, old folks—is enormously popular, with some analysts predicting that the market will exceed $1.6 billion by 2021. Professional gamers, just like athletes in analog sports, are celebrities, with top gamers having millions of followers, endorsement deals, and brand sponsorships.

Mountain Dew is no stranger to gaming, and with 15 years of experience in the space, they recognized early on that there was potential around competitive gaming, exploring that world the same year that saw the debut of landmark games like Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft and Red Dead Redemption.

Early on, they were insightful enough to identify that this was an underserved community, and so they set out to work on a drink specially designed for gamers that not only tastes great but includes ingredients that would improve performance.

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That insight started a 2-year project to deliver a refreshing performance booster in MTN DEW AMP GAME FUEL with L-Theanine, ginseng, yerba mate, and vitamins A and B that players can sip during massive raids, critical deathmatches and vital quests without having to go AFK—that’s “Away From Keyboard” in gamer speak.

“From the beginning, we had a clear vision for the design process," says Carl Gerhards, Design Director, North America Beverages for PepsiCo. "It was all about being authentically connected to the eSports tribe."

“We began the work with an immersive gaming session with our brand, R&D, insights and working with other internal partners to get everyone familiar with modern gaming,” he adds. “From that point on, we continually linked back to that kick-off experience and always referenced relevant parts of the gaming ecosystem from aesthetics to finishes seen in gaming system packaging, and accessory design.”

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AMP GAME FUEL isn’t just designed for professional gamers either. PepsiCo Design + Innovation sought out input from players of all stripes, both amateurs and professional.

“The design of MTN DEW AMP GAME FUEL cans and entire visual identity system have been crafted with gaming and tech design cues that help us endemically connect with gaming and players in every environment,” Gerhard says.

But the most remarkable feature of the can is the cap itself, and it’s no ordinary pull tab—it’s also resealable. All gamers have to do is pull open the tab and slide it back in order to drink. That way, you can leave your beverage on your desk or near your console without worrying about knocking it over and ruining pricey gear. Better still, tactile ink provides consumers with a better grip.

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“The design of the can tab was specifically created to consider the needs of gamers so they can best enjoy this product while gaming,” Carl says. “The ability to reseal the can allows gamers to drink over a longer period of time, but most importantly gives an extra layer of protection from spilling liquid on their expensive PC and console setups.”

While the packaging design is functional, it also takes familiar imagery and colors to create a visual identity at home in the gaming environment. The bold colors, dual-tone design and big blocky letters make the can look more like a gaming accessory than a beverage. Even the secondary elements look like clickable button options in a game UI (User Interface). The black and textured portion of the can have a pattern reminiscent of the no-slip surfaces found on gaming mice and console gamepads.

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“The vertical color split plays on the competitive nature of gaming while also creating a bold and graphic look,” Gerhard adds. “Gamers will also notice small Easter eggs on the can’s design, point of sale materials and more, including the use of a language tutorial, UI overlays and secondary logos that mimic the ESRB ratings seen on all games today.

While energy drinks with similar ingredients have existed in the past, their focus has been on providing office workers and athletes a boost, so PepsiCo had the additional task of not only creating an innovative product line but also a new category, all while maintaining authenticity and credibility in the gaming community.

“Creating a product for a new category and usage occasion is a challenge in itself,” says Gerhard. “Championing authenticity for a brand designed specifically for gamers was one of our biggest challenges, especially within a company as large as PepsiCo, where many aren’t familiar with the eSports space. It’s easy to fall back on generic stereotypes of gaming, but we constantly pushed to be true to eSports.”

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“In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s more important than ever that we think and design holistic solutions that go beyond packaging and consider all touchpoints of a brand,” he adds. “For this launch, we worked across many mediums to create content, assets and designs that resonate with the eSports community. Seeing their excitement at the Call of Duty World League launch announcement, especially their social posts about the brand over the months since launch, has been rewarding.”

Call of Duty World League is the official competitive Call of Duty league. Now in their fourth season, the eSports league revolves around the first-person shooter franchise with teams competing in the 4th entry of the Black Ops series on Playstation 4 this season.

“At the event, we had a tricked-out booth where gamers had an exclusive first taste of MTN DEW AMP GAME FUEL ahead of its 2019 launch," says Gerhard. "We hosted a meet and greet with our newest partner, Team OpTic, along with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 gaming stations where players have a chance to win awesome swag.”

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The booths featured game stations, a vending machine and slick neon lighting matching the Game Fuel flavors. The booths smooth, black veneer and neon lights are reminiscent of custom PC case modifications.

The nods to the gaming aesthetic don’t end with the recipes, packaging, and debut booth. The influencer kit looks like a video game loot box, and features bright colors, keypad and canopy door. Perhaps the only way to make it more like a video game item would be to hide it in some dark corner of the influencers’ homes for them to discover in a clutch moment.

As part of the launch, Mountain Dew is also partnering up with publishers such as Ubisoft and games like Assassin’s Creed, Division 2 and Brawlhalla, providing in-game rewards like custom content, 2XP, game expansion, crafting materials, avatars and more with purchase.

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Mountain Dew has even sponsored teams and leagues like MDL, Team Dignitas, Immortals, Splyce, and SK Gaming, affording them the opportunity to listen to gamers and get at the heart of what they want. By immersing themselves into the competitive gaming world through these relationships, they established themselves as part of the community, but also inspired PepsiCo to create a unique drink specifically tailored for video gamers. Go here to learn more about PepsiCo Design & Innovation!

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