Last week, Pepsi bowed to widespread pressure and pulled a controversial advert which many believed trivialised the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have taken place across the US in recent years.
In its apology, the drinks maker said that it had wanted “to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding” with the advert.
Given the widespread backlash, it evidently didn’t succeed in this.
YouGov brand tracking data indicates that from a consumer perception point of view, Pepsi has had a bad week.
In the UK, Pepsi’s buzz score (whether someone has heard something positive or negative about the brand in the last fortnight) has dropped from minus one to minus 12 since the withdrawal of the advert. In the US, it is a similar story, with the brand’s Buzz score falling by exactly the same amount, from five to minus six over the same time period.
Of course, it is one thing for a consumer to recognise a negative story about a brand but another for it to really impact on their perception of a company. On this front, the damage seems to be more pronounced in the US.
Pepsi’s impression score (whether someone has a favourable impression of the brand) has fallen by 10 points in the States, while in the UK the score has dropped by five points.
While it could be argued the damage was already done, Pepsi’s response should help to limit any potential impact on its sales figures.
Indeed, its purchase consideration score (whether someone would consider buying the product) has experienced a small dip in the US but has remained solid in the UK.
One takeaway for brands is the care which is needed when they try to incorporate current events into campaigns in order to appeal to their customers’ core beliefs.
Thirty per cent of Pepsi’s current customers say they only buy products from companies that have ethics they agree with.
Last week’s advert was at best naive and Pepsi has paid for it with a knock to its reputation.