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Case Code: MKTG367
Case Length: 14 Pages 
Period: 2017   
Pub Date: 2017
Teaching Note: Available
Organization : PepsiCo. Inc. (PepsiCo)
Industry : Beverages and Food Processing
Countries : US 
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Pepsi's Kendall Jenner AD: Communication Gone Wrong

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Pepsi first used the slogan, ‘The Pepsi Generation’ in 1964, referring to young people. Since then, PepsiCo had positioned its cola drink as a product meant for young people. During the 1980s, the brand achieved huge success by using campaigns with artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson, representing the pop-culture for which Pepsi had always stood. Pepsi unveiled its first global campaign titled ‘Live for now’ in 2012, as a part of its new global positioning strategy. This was based on the brand’s extensive global research, carried out over a period of ten months, which stated that Pepsi fans liked to capture the excitement of now, made the most of every moment, and lived life to the fullest and hence the name of the campaign. ..

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Despite these campaigns and promotions, the New York-based company struggled, as its target consumers started shifting away from sweetened drinks, opting instead for healthier drinks and less salty snacks. Pepsi did not enjoy the same demand as it had previously because of the change in customers’ tastes and lifestyles. Also, comparatively weaker international exposure than rival Coca-Cola proved to be an obstacle for the company and hampered its reach. So, PepsiCo sought to come up with an ad that would make the beverage resonate more with younger consumers...


Pepsi had planned to run the ad globally across television and digital media. The ad was supposed to strike a chord with the young consumers. The company was therefore caught unawares when the result was completely contrary to what it had expected. The ad film was criticized for trivializing ‘Institutional Racism’ and for appropriating the ‘BLM’ movement and other serious protests which had claimed several lives. A vast majority of people around the world also slammed the ad for being “tone-deaf”. ..


Pepsi planned to strike a chord with the millennials by enticing them with the ‘Moments’ ad campaign, by choosing political activism as a theme and starring Jenner in it. But, the result was not as expected, as it garnered more hatred and criticism than love and support. Analysts pointed out several weak areas in the advertisement and identified more than one reason for the eventual failure of the ad campaign. The most prominent of those reasons was the fact that the Pepsi ad was not authentic. In the recent years, Pepsi and other sugary drinks and other snack brands had been pushed into the limelight for the negative impact of these products on consumer health. So, in order to cover up this dark side, these brands had started to connect themselves with broader causes, which would also help them in drawing consumer attention to their brands..


The production costs of the ad campaign that was made in Bangkok ran into millions of dollars. An industry expert said, “At least $2 million, but probably more like $5 million, including Kendall’s fee. Adding the media buy would be roughly $100 million for a campaign like this.” Another person who had worked for a long time as a production co-coordinator for the brand noted, “Kendall was likely paid a one-time fee for the ad. I’d guess anywhere from $400,000-$1 million.” ..


Exhibit I:PepsiCo’s Global Net Revenue from 2007 to 2016 (in billion US dollars)
Exhibit II: 2017 Super Bowl Ads that carried socially/politically active messages .
Exhibit III: ‘Hilltop’ Coke Ad of 1971