Flat Pepsi – Learning from Sodamaker’s Latest Formula

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Chris Barlow.


Have you heard about the new Pepsi commercial? Assuming you own a computer and don’t get your RepMan via delivery boy, you most likely have. It combines two of everyone’s favorite things: a Kardashian, and the exploitation of worldwide protests to promote the sale of a sugary beverage.

The internet was not a fan of this cringe-inducing, quasi-deep advertisement that made it seem like protesting is a bunch of fun, dancing and soda. And what did Pepsi do about it? Not much. At least not for a good 12 hours. In the big picture, this may seem like a quick response, but in internet time it may as well be an eternity.

So why did Pepsi take so long, especially after taking their time with their last crisis? In today’s day and age, holding out on a response gives the media time to write their stories, shows how unprepared your company is for these scenarios and only allows your negative story to echo on in the endless annals of the internet.

Having a PR crisis and waiting to do something is the equivalent of breaking your leg and, well, waiting to do something. It gives media outlets time to cover what happened. It has time to go from the outraged twitter user, to the outraged twitter reporter, and before you know it, a top-tier outlet is writing about your video. Do you know what any fair, respectable reporter likes to include in that article? A quote from the company that allows them to provide their point of view.

Maybe Pepsi took so long to release a statement because they really wanted to nail down what they wanted to say. Better to craft a bulletproof, people-friendly statement than to come out with one that only fuels the fire.

Unfortunately, this only shows just how unprepared Pepsi was for this backlash. It seemed they hadn’t even considered the possibility that this commercial would be met with a negative response. Any company, and certainly one as big and well-known as Pepsi, should see around potentially dangerous corners and prepare in advance. Otherwise you’re caught like a deer in the headlights while the internet turns you into a meme.

Finally, Pepsi came with a statement to combat the online onslaught. Defending the spot like Sean Spicer with a Trump tweet, they wanted everyone to know that they believe their message has the potential to unify everyone, and they hope everyone can learn to see it that way, too.

The public was not happy about this tone-deafness either and once again, let Pepsi know it.  Finally, within hours of that statement, Pepsi removed the spot from the air. This was probably done to put an end to the nightmare they had endured for the last 24 hours. That’s good. That shows that Pepsi listened to its audience and responded accordingly. Maybe some advance testing with real people could have guided them before the commercial ever saw air time. Because on the internet, the nightmare does not go away with airtime cancellation. The internet doesn’t forget. Seriously.

The effects of a PR nightmare can last a long time. Pepsi’s only hope is for another brand to release a potentially harmful ad with zero awareness of today’s social climate, and who knows how long that could take.

Oh.  Never mind.

One thought on “Flat Pepsi – Learning from Sodamaker’s Latest Formula

  1. In the age of Trump, pne.can be cynical and say that Pepsi knew exactly what they were doing, planned this outrageous stunt including a Kardashian, and enjoys the attention.

    It is rare that a Unitarian pastor mines marketing backlash for comic effect, but ours did this past Sunday.

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