5 Things Pepsi Could Have Done Differently

From start to finish we, as a multicultural marketing and reputation management agency, intently watched the latest addition to Pepsi’s “Live for Now” campaign. Wondering what was causing so much backlash, we immediately recognized where it all went wrong and what we would have done to prevent it.

  1. Use Someone Other Than Kendall Jenner

The Kardashian/Jenner clan is one of the most famous families of the 21st century. From the O.J. Simpson case to Keeping up with the Kardashians to I am Cait, America has watched this family grow up and noticed their many milestones. Kendall Jenner, the second to youngest of the family, is most known for her modeling and roles on television reality series about her life. While Kendall is most certainly popular and a good choice as a celebrity spokesperson, perhaps choosing a popular activist or a model/actor who has actually notably participated in protests would have made for a more relatable choice. Perhaps she or he should even be a racial or ethnic minority who suffers from discrimination in today’s social and economic climate. At least then, when the lead character breaks that barrier between protesters and police officers, it truly would be something worth celebrating.


  1. Conduct a lot of Research

Using a focus group or testing this concept with a social justice organization before production may have avoided this PR nightmare. Focus groups would have provided insights into how this spot is perceived by diverse audiences. Details and images are important, especially on such sensitive topics as civil and human rights. Taking the time to do the research and homework matters if Pepsi wants to convey a message of solidarity and support to these diverse communities and issues.

  1. Keep it Consistent

One of the disturbing and confusing parts about this spot — that boasts unity, diversity and inclusion — is when one of the characters does something completely different. Why is the only angry person in the whole spot a female wearing a hijab? While we as viewers understand the frustration the character is feeling by not getting the results she’s looking for in her photography, the angry emotional outburst and “sparks of fire” behind her beauty shot did not contribute to the story. That part would have been eliminated completely. And what’s up with the two young ladies enjoying their Pepsi and meal completely ignoring what’s happening on the streets? Are they representation of how some people are aloof to protests and issues around them? If so, why do these women get to enjoy Pepsi, too? This scene seems out of place considering we never see these characters join the march.


  1. Stay on Target

Towards the end, we begin to wonder if this is commercial is about Pepsi or Jenner. The removal of the blonde wig to reveal her brunette tresses underneath transforms her into one of them [the people marching]. Then Jenner captures the attention of the marchers and almost seems to “lead” the crowd to the stand-off with police. Again, if the hero were a celebrity more associated with civil rights and social injustices, being the leader of the pack might have seemed more authentic. At Matlock, we would have asked why not allow one of the marchers — and not the celebrity model — to be the hero(ine)? Jenner2Jenner3

  1. Consider Perspectives

Advertisers should always consider current events and the current political and social climate of the world. While we applaud Pepsi for what they were trying to do, perhaps using a different setting would have been easier for those who are affected by the drama of the world every day. Any advertisement involving protesters or marchers, police officers, breaking barriers, and a celebrity who appears far removed from that world, is a recipe for trouble. If an organization would like to demonstrate its ability to recognize the importance of diversity and unity, we would recommend they start in their everyday campaigns. A spot featuring a heterosexual couple should be able to be replaced with LGBTQIA casting, a print ad featuring a family of Hispanics or African Americans should be able to deliver the same message as a family of Caucasians. By calling out people’s differences in an effort to say “I notice you” or “I identify” with you, you are actually making them feel objectified and causing the opposite effect.

Photo Credits: Monllos, K. (2017, April 5). Pepsi Pulls Its Much-Hated Kendall Jenner Ad, Saying It 'Missed the Mark' Retrieved April 05, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/pepsi-pulls-its-much-hated-kendall-jenner-ad-saying-it-missed-the-mark/