Morally speaking, Kendall has done nothing wrong within the grand spectrum of capitalism that America has embraced. The pre-packaged, processed version of a safe, artsy, Woodstock-esqe rebellion flash unironically on the Chinese mass-produced wide-screens in our homes every day. Brands want you to think that to escape the pressures of society and break the mold set forth by capitalism, you must purchase their product. From my perspective, this paradoxical marketing strategy has never been more fully realized than in the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad.
The success of this ad will be measured, and Pepsi will either respond and adapt, or ignore it altogether. The flaw in the ad from a marketing perspective is that it was all fluff and no bite. Starbucks recently received free (mostly positive) publicity because of their pledge to hire refugees, and while this was viewed as a counter-cultural move, Starbucks isn’t looking to appeal to Donald Trump voters. They want the young, hip, urban crowd. They want liberals who love the idea of ethical consumption. Morality is the name of the game, and Pepsi overplayed its hand.
If you release a commercial that shows your company planting trees, or giving out water in a foreign country, you’re showing that you and your company have had a direct impact on the lives of others. Kendall Jenner’s fake protest however merely borrows or outright steals the iconography and culture of protesters. It shows groups of artsy, ethnically diverse young people engaging in strange, party-like demonstrations that resemble a festival environment more than a protest. The police are not in riot gear, nor are they wearing any protective armor. The police are romanticized, small-town Andy Griffith versions of what actually roam the streets of America, and the protestors have no specific message other than random peace signs and bohemian charm.
Finally, in the greatest act of blasphemy ever aired on television, Jenner takes a Pepsi (to which her young hip urban friends nod approvingly) and gives it to a Hollywood actor dressed a police officer. He cracks it open as the crowd holds back their orgasmic joy, and then he takes a sip. Everyone explodes in celebration. All is well with the world. Praise our almighty Pepsi gods for bringing us together on this most joyous day. God bless us, every one.
I don’t watch commercials. I don’t watch TV. I refuse to take part in a system that actively seeks to brainwash me and take my money. I don’t need more slogans or logos in my head. I can already see most of them without the aid of Google. What Pepsi has done is either a stroke of genius, or they are on their way out in terms of good brand management. Marketing truly has one goal: Get people talking, and people are talking. It just seems like most of them aren’t endorsing this commercial, and I truly can’t image what demographic they’re trying to appeal to.
In America, soda consumption is down. This ad might be a desperate attempt to stay relevant by a brand that (in my opinion) never attained the classic status that Coca-Cola has enjoyed for many years. I remember when Pepsi began marketing itself as the drink of creative types with its series of Beyonce endorsed ads (Edit: I wrote this from memory and I originally said "Taylor Swift ads" but she actually endorsed Diet Coke). I remember thinking it was stupid then. This is the natural evolution of that campaign. Young people and creatives are more likely to be left-leaning, and therefore more likely to engage in protesting the current conservative government. They thought that they were on the beat with this one, but I feel like what they’ve created is more dissident than it is harmonic.
Whether or not this ad will fail means nothing to us. We will probably never know what really happens behind the scenes. The only metric for measuring this commercial is sales and profit over time, and only time will tell. After all, money is all that Pepsi cares about anyways, which is why you shouldn’t really care about what this all means, because if you’re honest with yourself, you already knew.