Famous Branding Mistakes: The Kendall Jenner Pepsi Controversy

If you haven’t already heard about Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad, you are one of the few. A commercial where the reality TV star and supermodel was shown giving a can of Pepsi to a police officer was condemned by many for trying to make light of a nationwide protest movement following police shootings of African Americans. Pepsi claims it was trying to project a message of unity, peace, and understanding. After the uproar they quickly removed the video and halted any uses of the commercial. The ad caused Pepsi to be accused of appropriating a racial protest movement to sell their brand. 

Activists were outraged their efforts were being trivialized and even more so that Pepsi never apologized to the people who dedicate their lives to important issues. People responded on twitter, calling out the brand with satire and boycotting all Pepsi brands. With the large outcry against the brand, Pepsi quickly made it on the list of famous branding mistakes.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learned from the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi controversy, such as reviewing your content before launching, responding to the outcry, and the overall aftermath of the incident. 


Before launching any content, you should always review what you are releasing. There are many times where inappropriate content may slip under the radar because it was overlooked or not fully thought through. It is advised to have other people who did not work on the project to review as they are more likely to notice any messaging that may be perceived negatively. It is also recommended to take a step back as the creator of a project and think of any ways people may perceive your content as offensive or inappropriate. This may be difficult, but with practice you will begin to more accurately and confidently identify what may spark some controversy in your content. Pepsi thought their ad was going to create a global message of peace and understanding, but video did the exact opposite turning many people against them. Even with the best intentions, it is the smartest practice to carefully review all content before releasing it to the world. 


Another lesson to learn from the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi ad is how to respond to any outcry you may experience from a negatively received ad. Pepsi immediately began responding when they received feedback on the ad and removed the ad and halted any further rollout. They also quickly released a statement apologizing for the ad and putting Kendall Jenner in that position. Pepsi put a noticeable amount of effort to show people they were sorry to recover from the PR disaster they were facing. The best practices to learn from Pepsi is immediately responding to negatively received ads and removing any content that offended a significant group of people. By apologizing and addressing the situation quickly, you can better control any backlash your business may receive from the public. 


After the initial response initiatives are taken, begin thinking of how the mistake may affect your business in the long run. If your branding mistake was minimal and you did not receive extreme backlash, your initial responses may have been enough to just let people move on and forget about the incident. If you suffered from an extreme backlash, similar to Pepsi, you may have to wait a while for people to begin talking about the incident less and less. As time goes on, people will go on with their lives and all you have to do as a business is lay low and learn from this experience to avoid going through it again.