How Not to Market For a Cause: Pepsi’s Ad Featuring Kendall Jenner

You have to be living under a cave if you have not come across the latest Pepsi Ad featuring Kendall Jenner yet. I wouldn’t blame you for not viewing it while it was still on Pepsi’s page because it was taken off within a few hours thanks to extreme online backlash.

What was this ad all about?

Well, this ad was an attempt by Pepsi to target millennials by showing unity amongst the youth from all walks of life while they protest for a cause.

At least that is what it was intended to be. What people really took away from it turned out to be world’s apart:

As CNBC puts it, “In the ad, Jenner is seen posing in a blond wig at a photo shoot, while a peace protest marches by. She then ditches the wig, grabs a can of Pepsi and joins the protest. Jenner gets to the front and hands the can to a police officer, who drinks as the crowd cheers.”

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Sounds pretty simple, but is it? The ad, specially this part of it has been compared to the Black Lives Matter movement and, more specifically, with the image of Ieshia Evans who had been arrested during a protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016. Twitter has been flooded with criticism and responses from celebrities and many other influencers.

As I mentioned in my last post, well-defined execution is key to an impactful cause marketing campaign. While Pepsi was taking a shot at capitalising on the current political activism and advocating unity for the youth from all walks of life to come together and fight for their rights, the way they executed the campaign just did not seem right. It actually casted doubts into the ad strategy. One of the main criticism of the ad was that the strategy team probably did not have the right insights into the type of people who protest, have been affected by the Black Lives Matter or other prominent protests. The Guardian sheds further light on it and states that the cause is anything but clear “as their banners, in the Pepsi colours, consist of painted love hearts, peace signs and the slogan “Join the conversation”. Perhaps they’re fighting for the rights of teenage diaries?”

After all the great marketing campaigns by Pepsi, it is quite a disappointment to see a poorly executed advertisement that (pretends to be) advocating a/an (extremely vague) cause. With great marketing really does come great responsibility. Cause Marketing is categorised as an important category, more likely an avenue for brands to not only show what they stand for but also, to use mass communication and lend a voice to people who suffer from a variety of social issues and look for a platform that they can relate to. In the light of recent affairs, this ad was for millennials to be inspired “to let go, choose to act, follow their passion and not let anything hold them back.” However, in effect, it just conveyed a confusing message and ruined the brand’s image.

However, Pepsi has been quick to take responsibility and respond promptly:

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the release said. “Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout.”

This hasn’t helped their case as much because people are still enraged and starting a movement to boycott Pepsi products until they issue a more comprehensive apology for the ‘blasphemy’.

Good luck, Pepsi!


5 Secrets of a Successful Cause Marketing Campaign

What is Cause Marketing after all? Several people think that its a recent phenomenon, a recent fad. It is indeed a trending buzzword but to no surprise, Cause Marketing has been around since the late 20th Century. The concept was born in 1976 as a result of a novel partnership between Marriot Corporation and the March of Dimes. The two organisations worked in collaboration to promote Marriot’s family entertainment complex in Santa Clara California while raising funds for the March of Dimes’ cause – the prevention of birth defects in babies. This partnership led to a great successful on both counts, and corporations around the globe followed suit.

Nowadays, Cause Marketing campaigns have expanded upon this phenomenon. They have internalised the causes within their branding and run their campaigns over an elongated time period, often for years. The factors that go into making a successful cause marketing keep evolving, so what are its core values of success? Let’s have a look:

1. Be Genuine

What matters the most to you? Is it something you and your team believes in? Make sure that this is what you really stand for.

2. Internalise the Message

Be consistent in your messaging. It is an art to integrate the brand story with the adopted cause and weave a campaign that is targeted, honest and trustworthy.

3. Formalise Your Affiliation

Bring your NGO-in-focus on board, include them in your communication and ensure that they do the same. Partner with them for join communication.

4. Well-Defined Execution

The process does not stop once you have formed an affiliation with an NGO. That is just the beginning.


Power of Cause Marketing

It’s fascinating to see that brands advertising simple commodities have been able to positively influence the masses to think and act for the betterment of the society.

“My chin sort of protrudes a little bit, especially when I smile” she said, as she described herself to an artist, who was sketching her portrait. Once the sketch was complete, the artist asked another person to describe her features. The two sketches were starkly different from one another; it did not seem like the same woman at all. The first one was characterised by exaggerated features, which are conventionally known to be unattractive, reminiscent of a caricature. However, the second sketch depicted a more appealing version of the woman, in fact one closer to reality. This popular marketing campaign that explored the gap between how others perceive us and the way we perceive ourselves, does not need much of an introduction – the Real Beauty campaign run by Dove has aimed to transform the hegemonic and possibly socially constructed definition of ‘beauty’ in order to enable millions of women to view themselves in a more positive light, hence building their self esteem. This socially responsible and widely influential campaign has been my strongest source of inspiration to enter into the field of cause marketing.

It is interesting to see how a brand advertising the simple commodity of soap, a commodity that merely cleanses your body, has intelligently capitalised to challenge the cultural constraints of society and brought about an intellectual transformation for the masses. This, in essence, is the power of an effective cause marketing campaign.