On Netflix’s four-part docuseries titled ‘Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?’ the viewers hear from the various people involved with the conceptualization and implementation of an innovative ad campaign by Pepsi in 1995. Brian Swette, who worked as the Chief Marketing Officer for Pepsi then, talked about how the ad campaign came about and what happened when a legal battle with John Leonard, a young man from Washington, brought the case to national attention. So, if you’re curious to find out more about Brian and his experiences, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Brian Swette?
Brian Swette had been working for Pepsi for many years when the incident occurred. Regarding his time there, he said, “I started at Procter & Gamble in brand management. But I had wanderlust, and Pepsico offered me an opportunity to work in Brazil when I was 25. I eventually ran Latin America for the company, and then I was [the] chief marketing officer. I was there for 17 years.”
During the 1990s, Pepsi was locked in a battle for market share with Coca-Cola. On the show, Brian talked about introducing a simple idea to put their rivals on the defensive: buying Pepsi to collect points and then redeeming them for merchandise. So, they hoped to make a funny commercial to highlight this, something that would have gotten the people talking.
Brian said of the work that went in for anything new to be introduced, “If I was launching something at Pepsico, the minimum year one revenue had to be $100 million. I had 1,000 salespeople. I’d get into 85% of grocery stores in America in the first three months.” After the idea for the ad was finalized, Brian said they put all the money they had for the summer into making the commercial.
The ad showed different merchandise that a customer could get in exchange for a certain number of points and ended with a Harrier fighter jet that could be redeemed for seven million points. John, who saw the ad, noted no disclaimers and devised a way to collect those points, eventually sending in a check for around $700,000. When Brian heard of it, he initially thought it was a joke and felt it would go away. While that was what happened in the end, it wasn’t without a drawn-out legal battle that brought severe media attention to what was happening.
Where is Brian Swette Today?
On the show, Brian said that he felt John found a clever opening and would give him credit for that, but the Harrier jet part was clearly meant to be a joke. Since then, Brian has been successful at various companies he worked at. He has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Arizona State University and then worked for Procter & Gamble for about five years before switching to Pepsi. In 1998, Brian became the COO of eBay, holding that position for about four years.
After that, Brian sat on the boards of several corporations and later became the director at Jamba Juice between 2006 and 2014. Since September 2011, he has been the President of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, a company that sells plant-based and farm-friendly foods. He turned to vegetarianism, following his daughter’s footsteps, which eventually led to him co-founding the company with his wife, Kelly, who previously worked at Pepsi and Calvin Klein.
In September 2017, Nestle acquired the company for an undisclosed sum, but Brian continues to hold the position of President. Brian and his family live in Pebble Beach, California. Furthermore, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at ASU and serves on the board of Shutterfly and Care.com.
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