Marketers are finding the current political climate a difficult one to judge, and this week’s controversy about a Pepsi ad featuring model Kendall Jenner clearly illustrates that. The brand itself admits it “missed the mark” with the ad showing Jenner joining a nondescript political rally and handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer.
— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017
Many, from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s daughter to Piers Morgan, panned the commercial.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 5, 2017
Here's what Ad Age quotes Elle magazine about these two photos on Tuesday:
David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance, sent his comment to Target Marketing on Wednesday afternoon: “Successful marketing campaigns have the power to add millions to the value of a brand. However, ill-conceived campaigns equally have the power to significantly erode hard-earned brand equity. Pepsi, which already had a difficult 2016 with its brand value dropping by 4 percent to $18.3 billion dollars, could face further losses in the value and strength of its brand as a result of this ad. Companies are right to push the boundaries and take risks when it comes to marketing products, but this proves that fallout from a single video can have a very damaging effect.”
Dan Hill, CEO of Hill Impact, an integrated strategic communications and government relations firm located in Washington, D.C., tells Target Marketing this on Wednesday: “Pepsi got this wrong from the outset. Brands should ‘resist’ the temptation to harness a current event to benefit sales, especially on a subject as sensitive as that alluded to in this ad. The first few steps following a reputation challenge are the most important and the company got all of those wrong. The brand instead dug-in its heels for 24-hours — before ultimately reversing its decision, meaning Pepsi gets no credit for pulling the ad since it appears it was forced to, rather than electing to do so on its own terms. Even with the best of intentions, brands unnecessarily place themselves in harm's way when they try to capture a moment or ride the wave of a social or political issue. I'm actually shocked that the ad got cut in the first place, since it so clearly trivializes a hot issue in our country and can easily been seen as appropriating Black Lives Matter. Had Jenner and others simply joined a generic rally, there would probably be less of an issue; the end of the ad is where it falls apart on so many levels that seem rather obvious. Pepsi should improve its vetting in significant ways so that an ad like this does not get through ever again.”
Taking a stand can have a positive effect, too, as 84 Lumber learned during the Super Bowl.
Asserting themselves may be easier for large brands with crisis management firms at the ready, asserts the New York Times says on Feb. 22. An L.L.Bean family member’s support of President Donald Trump or a Starbucks support of immigrants post-Trump immigration order may be easier for big marketers to weather.
Leaders at smaller businesses may have to have stiffer spines.
“Mitch Goldstone, co-founder of ScanMyPhotos, an e-commerce company that digitizes family photos, has always taken strong political stances, unafraid of how it could affect his 26-year-old business based in Irvine, Calif.,” the Times writes. “He even appeared on CNN in 2015, after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, to explain why he was opposed to him. These actions resulted in hundreds of angry phone calls for a few days, he said.”
Goldstone tells Target Marketing that he experienced backlash after the Times article, but his public brand statements continue to be anti-Trump.
"A big update," Goldstone tells Target Marketing on Wednesday. "Onto another related advocacy effort. ScanMyPhotos.com is rushing to disrupt President Trump's administration’s very public efforts to dismantle decades of scientific climate change data. We have already digitized more than 50,000 photos for several governmental agencies; yet sadly, due to a cloud of concern over any public engagement, many are requesting we provide full confidence that we handle this while being sensitive to and protecting their privacy."
Meanwhile on Twitter:
— ScanMyPhotos.com (@ScanMyPhotos) April 5, 2017
What do you think, marketers? Where is the line? (For background on the O'Reilly reference above, here's yesterday's article.)
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: Brands Try to Flee Fox, YouTube, Breitbart