If politics is not what you do for a living, it is better not try and use it for non-political gains because it is a double-edged sword and can cut both ways. This is what beverage major Pepsi is learning the hard way after it ran its latest campaign starring Hollywood icon Kendall Jenner getting mixed up with protesters.The protest movements has a seriousness of their own for those participating in the demonstrations across the country and Pepsi’s attempts to what many see as ‘trivializing’ the protest movement with its own value proposition didn’t go down well with most people.
The campaign did push up digital content engagement around Pepsi sharply by 366 % just within a day but most of it came in with a torrent of negative reactions – around 43% spoke of the way it supposedly affected the Black Lives Matter movement, while 31% were blunt enough to label the ad as “tone-deaf;” And about 10% of the reactions were outright hostile, tagging it as the “worst ever” they saw. There are all kinds of reactions in relation to different aspects of the ad that seems to have upset a cross section of people but out of all this, one aspect is coming across quite clearly – Pepsi shouldn’t have underplayed the seriousness of the protests.
How did Pepsi land up in this mess? Needless to say that it overlooked some basics of the issue it sought to leverage. Feminista Jones, writer, social worker and activist, observed, “Pepsi should have consulted people who have actually been on the front lines of protests these recent years. The organizers, protesters, educators…all of those who have been instrumental in bringing about these recent movements for justice. Brands should never make light of social issues related to people’s suffering; they should, instead, focus on selling their products in ways that don’t exploit the pain and suffering of marginalized people.”