Pepsi, from the Eyes of a Marketing Teacher

April 5th, 2017

In the college marketing class I taught at Creighton, I used Coke vs. Pepsi brand comparison as part of the curriculum. Based on my studies of the two brands, here’s a quick perspective on the now-viral commercial: 

  • Pepsi’s anthem (which ran for less than 48 hours) has probably had more exposure, generated more impressions and created more talk than any media plan could have ever delivered.
  • The risks Pepsi takes is a core part of their brand persona and the outcome of those risks, while sometimes negative, don’t seem to hurt the brand in any substantive way.
  • Pepsi is strongly aligned with the “Explorer” brand archetype, which is about pushing limits, exploring boundaries and frontiers, and pushing oneself in new directions.
    • With that framework of risk, things happen that people often don’t intend. Sometimes good, sometimes not. But that’s accepted as a natural part of the risk/reward ratio.

So even when time and time again Pepsi seems to step in it, it doesn’t do brand damage. It’s like most people think – ‘yeah, well it’s just one of those follies of youth’.

I doubt the Pepsi and Kendall Jenner spot was intentionally created to blow up into a controversy. It was created by the in-house agency. They were likely trying to be relevant to their audience’s passion of creating change, but missed the mark because they were too inwardly focused to understand that it was tone deaf in a larger societal way.

But let’s face it. It’s Pepsi’s world, and we’re all just living in it.