Elevate Planning is a Creative Marketing Firm in LA

Marketing to Millennials


Pepsi, and the Social Good Campaign flop

by, Elevate Planning

  Using advertising and experiential marketing campaigns for social good can be very powerful. Especially if the target audience is the millennial, and the message is meant to inspire and empower. Experiential activations and media ad campaigns are often launched simultaneously, so it is important to apply many of the same components, research, and guidelines before launching. There are several key components to activating a brand properly, and adding socially sensitive issues to campaigns can add fuel to a fire.
As marketers, you have probably seen many brand activations and campaigns throughout your career, some good and some poorly executed. Matter of fact, you have most likely sat in the cross fire of a failed campaign. OUCH! In any experiential marketing campaign or ad, in order to bring positive awareness to the brand, especially when taking huge risks, you must understand the target audience and the brands ultimate purpose. That is part of the gamble, anticipating how socially sensitive work might play across social media and events. This is especially true if the brand doesn’t have a direct connection to the issue, or known to be “socially conscious”. There is a big disparity from trying to inspire the consumer and diving into old social sensitive issues, and assume “drinking a Pepsi” can fix it.Here are a couple viewer reactions to the campaign:

  • “1.  Protest for peace  2. Have some Pepsi  3. Rejoice because a cop drank Pepsi even though nothing has been achieved”
  • “And to think, all Rodney King needed to do to avoid those beatings was drink a Pepsi”

Oh boy…
According to Max Lenderman, marketer for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Absolut, and author of  “Experience The Message, How Experiential Marketing is Changing the Brand World,  “the shop has four ironclad rules when it comes to campaigns with a social good bent: They must be well-intentioned, able to convince people of those intentions, aligned with the company’s own goals, and able to produce some demonstrable effect.”

“You have to persuade millions of people that you come from a place of good rather than a place of capitalism, so to speak,” Lenderman said.

Shortly after the campaign was released, Pepsi announced a public apology. So while Millennials love transparency and social good, overall, it was a bit of a leap for Pepsi and the disconnect between the brand, the influencer, and the message, didn’t come across. Using the right influencer to represent such sensitive social issues is paramount, but we’ll save that for a different article.


Viviana Salvia





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