Why Pepsi Canned Itself


At the turn of the 20th century, Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, opined, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

If only Pepsi had taken Tolstoy’s hint. Sadly, it didn’t.

This Coca Cola competitor, like most companies worldwide, worships hashtagging Millennials. In my new book, Brand Is Destiny, I devote an entire chapter to this mania.

After Donald Trump won the presidential election, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi described to AdvertisingAge the reaction of her fragile employees:

“Our employees are all crying, and the question that they are asking, especially those who are not white: ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I’d have had to answer those questions.

“The first thing that we all have to do is to assure everybody in the United States that they are safe. Nothing has changed because of this election. What we heard was election talk, and we will all come together and unify the country.”

It’s clear that these Pepsi snowflakes were behind the plan to hire Kendall Jenner to star in a virtue-signaling, change-the-world commercial. It runs more than 2.5 minutes and offends Black Lives Matter, the group perpetually advocating violence against police.

Why the fake outrage? Because Kendall Jenner has the audacity to show kindness to a police officer by handing him a can of Pepsi.

Surprise (not): The mobocracy refused to back down, and Pepsi canned the video.

My reaction to Fox Business:

“A big corporation like Pepsi should have known that ‘mixing commerce and social justice just doesn’t work.’

“The objective of advertising is to sell products, not preach.

“Secondly, instead of communicating to millennials as individuals with real lives, this spot addresses them as an idle group with a single interest: protesting. Whoever conceived and greenlighted this spot, which won’t sell one can of Pepsi, wasted the shareholders’ money.”

This was a major branding blunder, committed by unqualified people, an embarrassment to Indra Nooyi and the Pepsi board. The shareholders cannot be happy.

Critical thinking: Those who live in social media know nothing about branding. And, those enthralled by virtual reality know nothing about reality.

Accordingly, the Pepsi video is exactly what one should expect from those who conceived and greenlighted it. Indra Nooyi must make some personnel changes, quickly.

I’ll extend what I told Fox Business:

The sole objective of advertising is to sell products — not to preach, not to make people laugh, cry, and seethe. That’s why Super Bowl commercials are a total waste of money. (Read “Skip the Super Bowl”)

Parting Advice to CEOs

Instead of competing against Coke and other fizzy drinks, Pepsi, by engaging in social justice, is competing with an angry mob. Do NOT emulate this practice.

Don’t try to change the world. Change yourself. Learn to brand.

Satisfy your customers, profitably, and enrich your shareholders in the process. That’s your only job.

Watch Saturday Night Live Skewer Pepsi


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of two books:
Brand Is Destiny: The Ultimate Bottom Line and
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2017 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

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