Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pepsi's Recent Failed Marketing Strategy

The article link posted at the bottom of the page, Pepsi Pulls Ad Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter, was published by the New York Times on April 4, 2017.

I saw the mentioned advertisement last night as I was reviewing my written assignment for the Cola Wars. The coincidence of timing made me curious to what inspired this marketing strategy and how could the highly competitive industry impact the negligent move by Pepsi.

Pepsi claimed the ad was intended to project a global message of  peace and understanding. Instead, as the article explains, it managed to depreciate the Black Lives Matter movement and marginalize civil protest. Due to overwhelming negative feedback, the brand has pulled the ad. The short clip shows a group of happy and youthful protesters and popular icon, Kendall Jenner. It symbolizes Pepsi as a beacon of unity that can end the protest and hostility.

This is a case of failed competitive positioning. Competitors in a market position themselves both in terms of the segments they address and how they try to be perceived by customers. As Coke and Pepsi compete head-to-head, both are looking for ways to differentiate and move into profitable market segments. With this marketing strategy, Pepsi clearly attempted to aggressively position itself in the young adult market. They tried to exploit a change in the industry and to recapture this consumer segment.

Recent consumer shifts away from the cola market has become a threat to the industry. This is increasing the rivalry between competitors. Large targeted marketing efforts has historically worked for Pepsi, who is more aggressive with its positioning than Coca-Cola. The Taste of a New Generation Campaign and Pepsi Challenge campaign are examples of aggressive targeting which allowed Pepsi to take market share away from coke and position itself in desired markets. This strategy did not work here.

Pepsi saw what they perceived to be a market opportunity. Recent rises in political activism and civil protest has become the hot button issue. It is my perception, that Pepsi saw this trend as a chance to reach young adult consumers. They rushed to beat their rival to the opportunity and as a result were negligent in their execution of strategy. Now that the marketing strategy appears to have had the opposite effect, I wonder what is Pepsi's strategy to make up for the hurt they have caused.

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