This week, PepsiCo’s broad activation at SXSWi had the company’s brands working with cutting edge partners to create exclusive experiences for consumers in the digital space like never before.  Case in point, Pepsi Max is partnering with BreakoutBand, a PepsiCo10 company, bringing its interactive music beat maker to the Pepsi MAX Lot at SXSW.  Music fans have the chance to win prizes, mix their own beats on-site, form virtual bands and create original songs via their mobile phones.  For those sticking around for SXSW Music, which begins today, check out a glimpse of the social music experience from PepsiCo’s Snapshot of the Day.

Quality idea sharing has also proven to be a major priority for PepsiCo’s presence at SXSWi.  PepsiCo’s Plugged-In Stage featured flash panel discussions, interviews with some of the industry’s top digital minds and a series of thought provoking discussions curated by PepsiCo partner Fast Company.

Social Context and the Morality Game

Today’s PepsiCo flash panel, Design for Social Good: a 1-on-1 with Ric Grefé and Fast Company’s Alissa Walker”, affirmed if there was any doubt, design is cultural context.  AIGA, the oldest and largest professional organization for design, is launching its new program, Design for Social Good.  And in asking its members to devote 5% of their time to pro bono causes, AIGA continues to set the agenda for the role of design within a social, economic and political framework.  Ric Grefé, CEO of AIGA, spoke on the important place in society designers have in advancing the exchange of ideas, providing creative counsel and leadership within individual communities – and on a global scale.  “Creativity can defeat habit, and almost all problems are the result of habit,” said Grefé.

When it comes to the habit of dishonesty and cheating, is there a difference between the two, and if so, what are the implications for on-and offline behavior?  During PepsiCo’s livestream of “Flexible Morality of User Engagement & User Behavior,” Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and “The Upside of Irrationality” and Sarah Szalavitz, CEO of 7Robot, put their investigation of the relationship between morality and user engagement on display.  “It’s a study on flexible morality,” said Szalavitz.  Essentially, there is a “fudge factor” where people have a level of immorality while thinking they’re inherently honest people.   The team even extended their test to this week’s SXSWi participants to see how various choices offered by user experiences and online communities “game” the outcome.  People were most loyal to the thing that had the least likely consequences both on-and offline.  “Creative people are more prone to cheating behavior because they can tell a better story to themselves about it,” said Szalavitz with well-received humor.

Women in Emerging Technology and Innovation

PepsiCo’s flash panel “What I Know About the World” introduced the human element of observation and experience into the conversation among women in technology.  Featuring Cathy Brooks (Raconteur, Other Than That), Brooke Hammerling (Founder, Brew Media Relations), Genevieve Bell (Director of Interaction and Experience Research, Intel) and moderated by Fast Company’s Ellen McGirt, the panel shared stories and insights about how their innovations are reshaping the world we live in today.  “I didn’t realize how much my story mattered.  Your personal story is the most influential thing you have,” said Cathy Brooks of Raconteur, Other Than That.

A few other key thoughts expressed during the wide-ranging discussion focused on authenticity and how that translates into building a persona:

•               “The question about an authentic vs. inauthentic voice didn’t start with Twitter,” said Genevieve Bell Director of Interaction and Experience Research at Intel.

•               “We have to be transparent. We are helping to define the personal story of the product.  We’re putting a face on it, making products more personal,” said Brooke Hammerling, Founder of Brew Media Relations.

Designed to Drive Brand Health

Also of note late yesterday, Shiv Singh, head of digital for PepsiCo Beverages America sat down with Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO at IfWeRanTheWorld at “Refresh, Together: The Pepsi Refresh Project in 2011” to discuss how brands create substantial movements, engage more deeply, digitally and ultimately make a difference in the world. The conversation focused on key learnings garnered from 2010 and how to make Pepsi Refresh even more digitally engaging, impactful and transformative for consumers in 2011.

“Cause marketing is the future of all marketing.  In ten years, I think every consumer should have the assumption that companies have good intentions,” said Singh.

Earlier this year, Singh told the NYT, “This was not a corporate philanthropy effort. [Pepsi Refresh] was using brand dollars with the belief that when you use brand dollars to have consumers share ideas to change the world, the consumers will win, the brand will win, and the community will win. That was a big bet.  No one has done it on this scale before.”  In fact, when Pepsi launched the Refresh Project in 2010, it was one of the year’s most successful marketing efforts, generating millions of online conversations and landing within the top 5 social media programs ever according to Forbes.