So, if you have not heard already, Pepsi launched what could quite possibly be the worst commercial of all time. Based on the negative backlash it received the company was not only forced to pull the commercial but issued an apology just days after it was launched online.
If you have not seen it, click here before all traces of it disappears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfCiV6ysngU
So, having worked in advertising myself, I can tell you that this concept was not thought of overnight. It took weeks, possibly months to roll out and, in the background, I am sure layouts for press, magazines and billboards have been designed and awaiting the green light that would never come. It’s sad when you really think of it…….and in the middle of is Kendall Jenner, a celebrity that already has a love/hate relationship with the public.
Now I can sit here and talk about how insulting it was to the Black Lives Matter movement or pick apart the commercial frame by frame and show you exactly why it was just a terrible execution, but what I am going to share with you the lessons you can learn from this debacle.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
A simple focus group to test this before it launched would have saved Pepsi millions of dollars. What executives failed to realize in this instance is trending does not automatically translate to trendy. Trust me, I get that Pepsi is ‘in the now’, but we live in times where people are being brutalized based on the color of their skin, religion and gender – utilizing this to sell your product does not make you aware, it makes you sleazy. I believe the underlying issue with this is that the company trivialized important issues thus raising the anger of persons who have been persecuted by simply saying ‘a Pepsi can solve all your problems’. While I understand that was not the intention, it was how it came across and by simply testing out the concept on a small cross section of individuals would have helped them tweak the message and not leave it open to assumptions and interpretations. Never underestimate the power of research
HAVE A STRATEGY
For the love of all that is holy, what was the strategy here??? What was the plan? The concept was flawed from the get go. The entire commercial is based on people coming together. I saw people from all walks of life, different religions and even transgendered individuals all showing love for one another…….ahem that is sooooooo the competition!! Pepsi is about music, pop culture and shaking things up. This half hearted, watered down approach is not what we have come to expect from a global brand such as this. There was absolutely no plan of action except to sell.
If you know the brand Pepsi, you know powerhouses like Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Pink, Britney Spears, Cindy Crawford and the list goes on and on. It was only natural to choose Kendall Jenner to be the spokes person for the brand. Pepsi is all about living in the now and who is more ‘in the now’ that Kendall: famous family, modeling career……she’s huge……But she’s no super human. Let’s remove her for just one second, what is the ad really saying? What is the message? Come on, what were you all thinking???
LISTEN TO FEEDBACK
So the ad never even made it to television, once social media got a hold of it, it was torn to shreds. The memes, the sarcastic rants and the comments that expressed disgust and disbelief were on every platform in every country. The backlash was swift, severe and hard to ignore. People were even threatening to boycott the brand! It was terrible to watch a giant fall to its knees like that, and even though they tried to defend at first, they had to give in to public opinion. In business, feedback is crucial, especially when it’s from your ideal client. Listen to them and let them guide you to your next steps. In Pepsi’s case their next steps better involve some type of public relations campaign to take away the bad taste they left in the public’s mouths.
This entire fiasco can all be summed up by stating the point: that sometimes the greats get it wrong. It really doesn’t matter if you are starting up or starting over, the signs are there for you to follow: Do your research, have a plan and get feedback, it’s as simple as that.
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