A scathing backlash from American news and opinion site Salon describes the Pepsi commercial that has drawn flak all over the internet as a "faux-Black Lives Matter commercial" and that "white people who treat activism like a trend are real".
From a marketing point of view, the advertisement was desperately trying to reach out to all youth of different races - Pepsi's new and desired target audience to expand markets and retain the brand's image of a drink that appeals to a cool tribe.
In reality, the over simplistic viewpoint and campaign that had not been clearly thought through by global professionals who were not from a multi-cultural/ integrated background had led to a huge scandalous commercial instead of the ideal popular thing to be.
We examine the four key issues, closely related to the basics of marketing that were not addressed in this highly controversial advertising campaign.
1) No clear message
Back to basics, the number one Marketing 101 - What is your campaign message? had not been addressed clearly enough.
Many brands - big or small, have fallen back to the most generic and meaningless tagline or messages that have obviously not been thought through or crafted by a professional so much so that the brand is better off not using one.
For instance, at the end of the Pepsi ad,
Live for now"
...sounds like it could be related to anything - from selling headphones to insurance plans.
The "movement" was unclear. That was the biggest problem. Having an ambiguous message led to problems which the Pepsi ad was openly interpreted as a Black Lives Matter movement message.
With numerous movements, protests and unrest happening around the world stemming from race, gender, religion, inequality, freedom of speech, politics and more, Pepsi thought they could address one or more of these issues in a generic, non-specific way that would satisfy all audiences - and they were terribly wrong.
Pepsi's ad was seen as a mockery of genuine protests for real causes by a strawberry generation of people who have no idea what real protests are all about and simply join in because they want to be accepted into a group or as a part of a bigger movement.
The irony is that the marketing team and advertising agency behind Pepsi probably thought this was a cool idea being down with the times.
Pepsi did make a big statement and huge exposure, no doubt a largely negative one, at the expense of its brand reputation.
2) Hiring a top influencer will not solve your problem
Nowadays, many brands turn to hiring top influencers such as social media stars or celebrities in the hopes of appealing to a wider audience and the influencers' fans.
The message is more important than the medium.
This proves that hiring the most popular celebrity in the world will not help your brand gain fame or sales if the very basics of marketing is handled by inexperienced executives with no solid background in marketing.
3) In-house marketing is the trend
Advertising industry website Ad Age, did some research and discovered that Pepsi's own in-house creative team, who call themselves the Creators League Studio, developed the concept, which they said before the ad release “takes a more progressive approach to truly reflect today's generation and what living for now looks like.”
We have a feeling that Pepsi's marketers are either shallow young executives and/ or elitists who have never been in touch with the real world.
Even large multinational corporations like Pepsi have to start saving on marketing dollars by stinging on their marketing budget and looking internally to source for marketing expertise instead of hiring an expert from outside the company.
4) The ad lacked sincerity
People from supposedly all races and backgrounds - mostly wealthy minorities playing the Cello and living/ working in a huge photo studio in a downtown area, and numerous white people of affluent background storming the streets in a hugely fake and vague protest.
The riot police looked like the friendliest policemen in the world. Instead of tear-gassing and baton-ing the crowd like what normal riot police do, one of the least menacing male-model types accepted a can of soda in this case from a member of the public (Kendall Jenner).
In conclusion, the movement looked so staged it lacked sincerity unlike the famous Coca Cola Peace commercial from the 1970s.
Even Pepsi can mess up so badly, how about your brand?
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