Keeping Up With the #Resistance

The Eighty-Eight team weighs in on the latest marketing fiasco: Pepsi x Kendall Jenner vs. the world.


Danielle: So. Kendall Jenner + Pepsi. I’m sure you all have opinions. We all know that it was a huge misstep, but let’s look at this from a marketer’s perspective. Can #Resistance be used as a marketing message?

Britt: I don’t even know where to start. But like all the fake protesters in the video, I am so here to ~join the conversation~

Andrea: TBH the headlines were off-putting enough that I didn’t watch it when they posted it.

Char: Wow, what a PR nightmare.

Gabriella: Pop is having a bad PR moment in general. One Facebook comment I read said simply, “people still drink this stuff?” It’s only one comment, but they have a point. It’s not the early nineties when you could get young people on board with the idea that Coca-Cola or Pepsi are working to make the world a better place. (It’s full of high fructose corn syrup, and the chemical processing and use of plastic bottles are bad for the environment. *My intent is not to lecture on these matters, but to point out the PR issues the industry is facing in general.)     

Danielle: When I think about multinational corporations like PepsiCo, I think of all the levels of approval this ad must have gone through (especially due to the high-profile, high-budget star) and am just baffled. People have permanent records and can’t get jobs at McDonald’s for doing what Kendall Jenner did in that commercial. How did they overlook that?!

Andrea: It’s crazy that they didn’t see this coming. They tried to make a *powerful* message that would appeal to the ever-desirable-Millennials, clunkily threw Pepsi in the mix, and what? Assumed Millennials are idiots who will fall for the hidden agenda and go grab a Pepsi on their way to their next protest? If you’re going to ‘use’ #Resistance you have to hold the issues up as well, otherwise it comes off as incredibly insincere. The message needs to make sense both ways, and if it doesn’t? Don’t do it and let it go.

Britt: It always makes me curious how many people along the way spoke up and pointed out how flawed the idea was or what the original idea and how many people twisted into something completely different. At the end of the day, someone signed off to give this final approval and I am so confused at how.

Char: While controversial ads tend to get a ton of attention, this one hit their target audience below the belt. Assuming Millennials are passive and not involved in today’s political issues probably isn’t the best way to reach your audience.

Danielle: I must admit, I have come up with many fantastic ideas (in my opinion) that are shot down because they’re just not that great. That’s the nature of the business of being a creative, but it doesn’t work if you exist in an echo chamber. Do you think one of the problems here is that this campaign was created internally in an environment where everyone was a cheerleader for the brand?

Erin: Pepsi used an in-house agency for this campaign, which makes me wonder: do we blame the in-house agency for not having an external opinion from someone like us (who would have told them NO PLEASE DON’T RELEASE THIS), or would an agency like us have developed a concept like this anyway and then been fired when the s*** hit the fan? It’s either an argument for why brands need agencies – to provide external counsel and tell them when they’re off-base – or an example of how regardless of how many smart marketers are in the room, you can still completely misjudge your audience.

Gabriella: Agreed. You could blame this on the fact that it was created internally, and several people have, but advertising faux pas like this happen all the time with agencies as well. Granted, this is a particularly severe case. So what should they do now? Donate ten or twenty million dollars to refugees?      

Hafsa: I hate to be that person, but I’ll be that person. I’m a PoC, part of a minority that is being targeted in the media each and every single day – so this ad immediately rubbed me the wrong way. This week was already a bad week for marketing – did anyone catch the NIVEA ad? WHITE IS PURITY?! What are people thinking? Do they not have any PoC on their team? I’m going to echo Danielle … these kind of ads for a major corporation like Pepsi have to go through so many levels of approval. HOW did this happen?

Also, off topic but there’s no way you can rub your lipstick off with the back of your hand and not get it all over your face. Let’s be serious folks.  

Char: The first minute and twenty-three seconds of the ad is actually really good! (Sans the innocuous yet symbolic picketing signs). Pepsi is an established brand that doesn’t need to piggyback on the political climate. Key learnings: (1) You can’t inspire peace and social change with a can of pop. (2) Millennials are smart(er than you thought). Sigh.

Erin: I should also point that out that I still haven’t watched the video. And I’m a Coke Zero fan for life (sorry Gabriella, pop is not dead!). All this “at least people are talking about the brand!” talk is ridiculous – they wasted god knows how much money on a celebrity spokesperson, and now have to not only start from scratch, but likely pay the bill for an expensive crisis comms firm.

Gabriella: @Erin They have the money to burn. I think that’s part of the problem.  

Danielle: The one voice we’re missing is that of the celebrity spokesperson, Kendall Jenner. Maybe we pick this conversation up when we hear her side of the story…I’m not going to hold my breath for that.

Thanks for your input, fellow Millennial marketers. ‘Til the next shitstorm!