The plot for the Kendall Jenner ad was the standard industry fare that has been pedaled for fifty or more years. What was surprising was the reaction to it.
Pepsi makes a product that, when drunk in sufficient quantities, makes you more likely to become obese and diabetic. Therefore, they’ve got a marketing and branding challenge: How to make a sickly product seem cool and hip?
Easy. Don’t focus on the product itself. Focus on the packaging, and wrap the packaging in celebrity. Show only beautiful, slim people drinking Pepsi with the message that if you want to be beautiful, slim and the center of attention, you too must drink Pepsi or Coke or whatever.
Whatever you do, never, ever show loyal customers who gulp down Pepsi on a daily basis, because these people are likely to have stained, rotting teeth and big bellies. Loyal Pepsi customers are quite simply the opposite of cool.
People are emotional fools and so easy to manipulate. Find something that they love and admire, associate your brand with it, and hey presto, watch those dollars roll in. So, the latest Pepsi ad was absolutely nothing new. Since the Sixties, Pepsi has been talking about being a drink for the ‘young generation’ and in the early Seventies, a multicultural cast sang about how they wanted to buy the world a Coke in order to encourage a global obesity and diabetic epidemic.
In the hallowed halls of advertising, the Coke ad is seen as one of the greatest ads of all time, while the Pepsi ad is now being called one of the worst ads of all time. In the early Seventies, when Coke released its obesity ad, the big brands controlled the message. Back then, we lived in an essentially non-thinking, consumerist, controlled society.
Social media is the media of the people. The younger generations today are much more skeptical and cynical about the man and the brand. Of course, they’re still gullible and can be played with clever messaging, but they’re not nearly as gullible as they used to be.
Younger people are much less interested in owning things for the sake of owning things. They want much more authenticity and real experiences. For the brands that have some genuine value to bring to the world, there are lots of opportunities. But for the fake brands with fake experiences and fake messages, there are much more challenging times up ahead.
Yesterday, we went to a restaurant in Greystones, Wicklow, called The Happy Pear. It makes absolutely delicious vegetarian food. (I’m not a vegetarian.) It also makes tremendous use of social media. It has this great sense of being fun, non-preachy, exciting, informative, cool, hip and healthy.
It was packed with Millennials, with queues outside, because to many in these new generations, eating healthy and conscientiously is the new hip. Pepsi tried to hijack this new movement of social activists, and the response was withering as people used social media (their media) to mock and ridicule the brand.
If you’ve got a fake product, more and more people will call you out on social media for being a fake brand.