In the first quarter of 2017 Pepsi released an ad starring popular model Kendall Jenner. The ad tried to portray Pepsi as the unifying force during a protest.
Moments after the release, things went south and it’s been lashing after lashing from almost everyone with many calling the ad ‘tone-deaf’.
The criticism of the ad made Pepsi and Kendall Jenner to release an apology.
Going forward, here are a few lessons to pick up:
1) Brands should never trivialize social issues. A can of Pepsi will not solve years, months or even a day of agitation. Let’s be real with ourselves. Authenticity is a word brands should have engraved in their DNA.
2) Casting is very important. A more socially active celebrity activist not just a pretty face might have put some twist on the campaign. With emphasis on the word ‘might’.
3) Research & Testing. Many of today’s ad creators have botched research for trends. Also, running your ad through a diverse group of people before release cannot be stated enough. Emphasis on the word ‘diverse’. In addition, brand controllers need to listen.
4) Using In-House Teams. It’s hard to read the label when you are inside the bottle-no pun intended. To grow your business and to create effective marketing/advertising campaigns most times it is best to bring a smart marketing firm that will give better perspective from the outside in.
5) Timing. This ad came out at the time when the Black Lives Matter movement was receiving a lot of media attention. The beautiful thing about timing is that it can make your job way easier if the message is right but it can mar months and years of work if the message isn’t right for the time. Brands also need to be careful what they jump on. Just because it is a trendy topic doesn’t mean you should jump on it.
6) Video Directing. The video director did a poor poor job and here are a few reasons why. The lame signs that had phrases like “join the conversation.” What conversation exactly? And then you have Kendall Jenner doing a shoot in a random doorway. Oh please! Plus the poor video coloring.
7) Racial Undertones. There were too many it will be hard to miss them. First that comes to mind was when Kendall Jenner whips off her blond wig and tosses it at a black woman. Why didn’t she throw it to the white guy standing by her right?
8) The Slogan “Live for Now”. Still trying to understand the correlation between the campaign and the slogan. Please school me if you can explain how “Live for Now” captures the essence of the campaign because it just doesn’t make sense to me.
9) Intents are not as important as Perception in Branding. The photo director Bjorn Charpentier said the ad was inspired by an iconic image from a 1967 Vietnam War protest. Regardless of the intent, that didn’t affect the perception. And perception is all that counts at the end of the day.
10) Pulling of Ads. I am not saying brands should always pull down ads that receive heavy criticism. With Pepsi’s case it was right they pulled down the ad but where I had an issue with them was with the initial backing of the ad claiming they were promoting inclusion. The ad should have been pulled long before they eventually did. And if you start off supporting your ad, stay the whole length.
Well, we love Pepsi and we hope that lessons have been learnt.
IYAM Media….Content, Branding, Advertising, Print Production and Digital Marketing.
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(Images Credit: Pepsi Global/YouTube)