High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

Pepsi/Kendall Jenner: Huge Fail or Big Success?



Pepsi missed the mark this week after their ad titled “Jump In” received massive backlash from the online community. “Epic fail”, “tone deaf”, “fiasco” are just a sampling of the online reaction to Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner — top model and a member of the infamous Kardashian dynasty. Even Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice, tweeted: “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi,” alongside an iconic photo of the civil rights leader being pushed back by police during protests.

In response to the fallout, Pepsi apologized on Wednesday for the controversial spot, saying they “missed the mark.”  Sure, the message, which showed a happy band of Millennial protesters, led by Jenner, who offers a can of Pepsi to a smiling police officer, is unlikely. What can brands learn from this disastrous ad?  Was this simply an example of messaging gone wrong?  Or was this roundly criticized ad a success — because at the end of the day, we’re all talking about Pepsi?  

From a PR perspective, the miss was not fully understanding the audience and not properly crafting the right message. By trying to be edgy, Pepsi angered the very community it was trying to reach. And by borrowing imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, it created a backlash instead of starting a conversation like its ad suggests. In pulling the ad, Pepsi said they were “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding” but instead they cast a negative light on the brand and only time will show the true ramifications of its actions.

What are your thoughts? How do you think Pepsi handled the situation? Do you think the backlash was warranted?