Pepsi “Live” and Learn: All Publicity Is Not Good Publicity

Abstract

Not all publicity is good publicity and good intentions do not always produce favorable results – just ask Pepsi. Following a wave of 2017 marketing campaigns (including advertisements during the Super Bowl and The Academy Awards) filled with social issue-oriented advertising, Pepsi jumped into the fray with a commercial that included a very recognizable celebrity (Kendall Jenner) and popular music (by Skip Marley). The result was instant condemnation on popular and social media, which included comments from Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. (“If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi” April 5, 2017). It resulted in Pepsi pulling the advertisement immediately. The questions soon followed: How could Pepsi miss the mark so drastically? Why was Pepsi’s “Live” such a dramatic failure? What “now” for the iconic soft-drink brand? This case looks at what we can “Learn” from Pepsi’s bad publicity but good reaction.

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