In 2005, we wrote several posts about a speech that Indra Nooyi, then president and CFO and PepsiCo, gave at Columbia Business School. As described by a Power Line reader who was present, Ms. Nooyi used the fingers of one hand to illustrate the world’s continents (excluding Australia and Antarctica):
First was Africa – the pinky finger – small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia – the thumb – strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage. Third was Europe – the index finger – pointing the way. Fourth was South America – the ring finger – the finger which symbolizes love and sensualness. Finally, the US (not Canada mind you) – yes, you guessed it – the middle finger. She then launched into a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world.
As I recall, an insincere apology eventually ended the incident.
A few years later, Pepsi adopted a logo that was obviously copied from the Obama for President logo.
Ms. Nooyi’s business career continued to prosper; she is now PepsiCo’s CEO. But her politics haven’t changed:
“How dare we talk about women that way,” Nooyi said on Thursday morning, referring to comments Trump made on the campaign trail and in an Entertainment Tonight video roughly a decade ago that surfaced in October. “If we don’t nip this in the bud it is going to be a lethal force in society,” Nooyi added…
When asked about the election result … Nooyi responded, “is there a box of tissues here?” However, she then pivoted by saying the new administration will need to ensure the safety and inclusion of non-white people, women, and the LGBT community. “The first thing we have to do is assure everyone living in the United States that they are safe. Nothing has changed as a result of this election” she said.
She must be a smart woman, but this is idiotic. Did she seriously believe that people would start lynching homosexuals because Donald Trump was elected president?
Pepsi is in the news again. It is being widely derided for producing one of the dumbest commercials in the history of television. The commercial stars Kendall Jenner (Kim Kardashian’s little sister), along with a cast of hundreds. One of Bob Marley’s grandsons furnishes the music. (“We are the chosen, we are the movement.” Straight from an Obama rally. What movement?) The ad consists mostly of a protest demonstration, but an anodyne one: the signs say “peace” or “join the conversation.” The marchers (or dancers) are squeaky-clean, multi-racial and happy. A Muslim girl wearing a hijab and a nose ring features prominently. At the end, Jenner gives a policeman a can of Pepsi and everyone cheers. It is hard to say what that is supposed to mean. Here is the full, 2:40 version of the commercial:
Pepsi’s ad was greeted by howls of outrage from the Left. Pepsi was appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement and other serious social concerns for a crass commercial purpose–using Kendall Jenner, no less. Pepsi has now pulled the ad and issued an apology. The ad was like a hall of fame of political correctness, but I haven’t seen any sign that conservatives objected to it, as opposed to laughing at it.
Pepsi obviously thought that it was catching a wave. Protests are big! The Resistance is everywhere! Everyone we know is a liberal! Let’s identify our product with the Left! If that sounds like a poor business plan, bear in mind that there are virtually no conservatives in corporate marketing departments and ad agencies. (This particular commercial was created by Pepsi’s in-house marketing group.)
That may be enough to account for the biggest marketing disaster of 2017, but I think there might be something else going on. I have often wondered–likely you have too–why large corporations are almost always liberal. Warmed-over Marxism offers no explanation, but I wonder whether part of the answer, at least, may be found in globalization.
Let’s start with Hollywood: why are most of its films so mind-numbingly stupid? Why do most have no dialogue above a grade-school level? Why are they mainly about explosions, superheroes, car chases and so on? And why are American movies no longer patriotic? A big part of the answer is that the Hollywood studios don’t care much about Americans anymore. Their biggest market is China, and foreign sales overall dwarf U.S. sales. American movies are made mostly for Chinese and Indian film-goers. If you think about it, that explains a lot.
Is the same thing true of soft drinks? Pepsi’s commercial was strikingly international. While some said that it intended to evoke San Francisco, it was filmed in Bangkok. The dancer/marchers aren’t just multiethnic, they are international–demonstrators of the world. Pepsi explained the ad’s intent when it issued its apology:
Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.
Emphasis added. The last line gives you some sense of the power of the Kardashian clan. The fact that Pepsi quickly withdrew the ad, on which it spent millions, indicates the power of the Left when it comes to popular culture.
I don’t think it is surprising that a globalist “we are the world” protest video failed to satisfy anyone. I wonder, though, whether a company that viewed itself as American and oriented its advertising to American consumers would make the same mistake.