Keeping up with the…Backlash

While the internet as a whole has pretty much deemed the latest Pepsi commercial a failure, I think we can all agree that the ad – as tone-deaf as it was – got people talking…about Pepsi. For good or bad, the brand is receiving copious amounts of publicity from its “Live for Now Moments Anthem.” Even Saturday Night Live did a spoof on the commercial. In the event that you’ve somehow missed it, this article from Wired gives a good summary of the commercial and the backlash Pepsi has faced since its release.

After more than a week of public scrutiny, Twitter explosions (MLK’s daughter even got in on this one, guys) and an arsenal of new memes mocking the brand for its exploitation of America’s most sensitive issues, the question becomes – what can other brands learn from this?

For starters, choose the right spokesperson. Kendall is famous – we all know that. But what is she actually famous for? She has a well-known family, a successful modeling career and has launched a clothing collection by partnering with some of the most recognized stores in the world. No doubt that, even at the age of 21, many would consider Kendall Jenner a businesswoman. But would you ever call her an activist? Have you ever seen her taking a stand or speaking out on social issues? I’m not saying that Kendall doesn’t believe in equal rights, but she just didn’t seem to fit the part for the message that Pepsi was trying to convey. Just because she’s well known doesn’t mean that she’ll do well for every campaign.

Which brings me to my next point: focus groups. From Black Lives Matter to Women’s Marches, I’m willing to bet there is not one TV-watching American that hasn’t at least heard a story about the recent happenings in this country. Knowing the delicate nature of these movements, why didn’t Pepsi test the ad? Because if they had – if they had shown the 2-minute 39-second commercial to anyone outside of the production agency, the brand probably wouldn’t have had to issue a statement saying they “missed the mark” and pull the commercial off the air.

The world was not silent about its distaste of the ad. It got 1.6 million YouTube views in just two days, with nearly five times as many “thumb downs” as likes. So yes, one of the leading beverage maker ad’s definitely got people talking. It’s just unfortunate that they left a bad taste in people’s mouths.