Quick recap: Last week, Pepsi came out with a really out-of-touch commercial starring Kendall Jenner, who leaves a photoshoot and brings peace to a vague protest by handing an officer a can of Pepsi. People were, understandably, upset. The commercial was in
poor taste, trivializing serious matters of protest, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, to an issue that can be solved with a can of Pepsi.
Pepsi did what large corporations everywhere have done for years: They found a hot-button topic, and they tried to capitalize on it. Do you think the executives at Dove truly care if you “Love your body”? Maybe a few of them do, but mostly they’re just happy that you’re buying their products. Does the CEO of Panera Bread actually have concerns about clean food? He might, but also he might be banking off the fact that clean, “healthy” food is “in.” We might never know whether these corporations have the best intentions or if they’re simply cashing in on the trends, but the fact is, what Pepsi did is not new. The difference, however, is that they failed miserably at it.
In true information age manner, the internet took quickly to calling Pepsi out for how obviously bad this commercial was and the company retracted the ad. Now, it’s unlikely that the marketing heads at Pepsi truly understand what they did wrong. At this point, they probably want to avoid further scandal, especially with their No. 1 competitor, Coca-Cola, leaping in on Twitter to reply to those who are allegedly swearing off Pepsi. So hopefully they will learn from this lesson and bounce back with a better ad campaign. Or maybe they’ll just hang their heads for a while until people forget about the whole thing.
But before you swear that you’ll never drink Pepsi again, here’s something to remember. Unless you can somehow mobilize hundreds of millions of people to do the same, you’re not really going to make a dent in their revenue. They’ve learned their lesson already, whether genuinely or just to save face. Boycotting is null. They may suffer a brief sales dip, bad PR for a bit, but eventually they will move on.
We see it time and again from all ends of the political spectrum. Target says they support gender-neutral restrooms, and suddenly conservative organizations and their members are swearing off Target. Chick-fil-A says it’s against marriage equality — looks like all the liberals aren’t enjoying Chick-n-Minis. But look — Oreo supports marriage equality. Guess those Target protestors aren’t going to be enjoying milk’s favorite cookie. Throw Pepsi in the mix, and the left-wing boycotter is out of luck when trying to find dining options on campus.
Liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, it’s ridiculous to think that refusing to buy Oreos or Pepsi is going to make significant change. It might make it easier for one person to have their purchasing preference, but the same goes for hundreds of millions of people who will take the opposite preference.
If you’re boycotting a chain or product for your own moral reasons, if you will not be able to sleep at night knowing Pepsi now has $2.50 of your money, then that is your decision. We know that there are some big companies out there with problematic means of production and unethical business practices that do, perhaps, sit poorly with the consumer. But if the reason you boycott is to try to somehow defeat the company, then I’m sorry to say you’re not going to make a difference. Buy that Pepsi and take to Twitter instead.