Here’s Why Pepsi Got It Wrong

Pepsi is under a lot of fire today after they released a new commercial starring Kendall Jenner that aired on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s untimely assassination.

The commercial shows a crowd of various ethnicities, protesting/parading through the streets when they reach a police line. At first, the officers look angry at the protesters. Until, sweet Kendall gives one of them a Pepsi and all is saved.

From a marketing/PR standpoint I can clearly see the intent of this commercial. However, here are 3 reasons Pepsi got it wrong and guidelines for you to follow to avoid the same PR crisis.

1. Why Kendall Jenner?

I love the Kardashian/Jenner clan just as much as the next twenty-something year old woman. However, Kendall Jenner is the last person that should have been chosen for this commercial. According to Pepsi, their intent was to display unity, peace, and understanding. There are plenty of young, well known activists who could have been a great lead for this commercial.


If you’re going to use current events to market your brand, make sure you have complete understanding of the issues and ask yourself: Would someone be offended by what I’m doing? Who would be a great fit to get my point across?

2. Check the dates

MLK is by far one of the most prominent persons in not just black history, but American history. He was fatally shot on April 4, 1968 but his legacy continues to live on. I want to truly believe this was an honest mistake by the team at Pepsi. Bernice King also had some words for the company.


Before launching a major campaign or planning an event, check the dates. Make sure there are not any other major or annual events happening during the duration of your campaign or event. If there are other things going on that would conflict with your campaign, change your date or reach out and try for a collaboration.

3. If you’re going to do it, do it.

What exactly are the protesters in this commercial protesting or marching about? According to Pepsi it was unity and peace. If the company truly wanted to touch on these issues, why not have signs in the commercial that say “Black Lives Matter” or “Love is Love”? Seems like the company was afraid to truly go for what they were trying to say. If that was the case, they should have left this topic alone all together.


As a brand, touching on social issues is not a bad thing if you are prepared for the consequences. Yes, you may lose some of your fan base or your customers. But if it is something you truly believe in, why do you care? If you aren’t going to truly embrace a social cause, then it is best you don’t speak on it at all.

Take it from Giuesppe vs Nicki Minaj – once the internet gets involved, there can be major issues for your brand. Be mindful when launching marketing campaigns and be sure respect others in the process.

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