Pepsi: When does ‘Challenger’ go too far?

Challenger mindset. Thinking outside the box, executing a bold positioning and provoking conversation. Being offensive, however, is a label no brand wants to wear – and this is where Pepsi have seemingly come unstuck.

Pepsi are part of an elite few brands that have the regular media exposure and privilege of influencing many with their campaigns in a positive way, yet unfortunately they have been irresponsible with it. As Uncle Ben once said (no, not that one), “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Maybe the team behind this Pepsi ad have never seen Spider-Man…

At A Little Bird, we love brands that challenge the norm and try something new. Sparking a social debate and maybe stirring a bit of controversy can be a good thing, when it’s done tastefully. However, there is a line, which Pepsi crossed with their latest ad – and the Internet seemed all too happy to tell them.

The ad attempted to project a message of “unity, peace and understanding” but ultimately the short-sited approach appeared to many to make light of important world issues and protests.

In today’s social media driven world, the general public can make or break a brand. The backlash to this ad forced Pepsi to release an apologetic statement and pull the plug on the whole campaign in just a day, but more impressively achieved the impossible – uniting the Internet, as Wired put it.

Many are calling it the “worst ad they’ve ever seen” – the aftermath and negative social commentary from this debacle would be extremely impactful for any brand, let alone Pepsi, who are constantly competing with market leaders Coca-Cola.

Pepsi have been left in an extremely difficult position in terms of where to take their next campaign. Do they stick with their challenger ideologies or play it safe in an attempt to reconcile with anyone they’ve offended?