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Pepsi: Showing Brands How Not to Behave One Misstep At a Time

Pepsi has gone and done it again. If their AMP iPhone App catastrophe wasn’t bad enough—where they completely alienated their entire female consumer population—they’ve gone and offended the public in yet another colossal blunder.

Last Saturday, Pepsi sponsored a concert in Uganda featuring controversial murder performer Beenie Man. An account of just some of the contention was detailed by Daily Monitor reporter Rafsanjan Abbey Tatya:

“The King of Dancehall stuck a sword of words into gay people through singing and talking.

‘In my family, we don’t have any gay person but if you’re gay, my brother that’s not my fault,’ he said as he performed his song Mi Nah Wallah, in which he says he would like to cut the throats of all gay men.

George Bush and Bin Laden were also at the receiving end of the Jamaican’s wrath calling on the audience to say ‘murderer’ as he sang about the pair’s warfare.”

Pepsi has responded with this statement:

“We are appalled by the performer’s lyrics and find them repugnant. Our bottling partner in Uganda was not aware of the performer’s views and never would have sponsored the concert with this knowledge.  Moving forward, we will work closely with our bottling partners to be more vigilant about the events associated with our brands.”

Pepsi’s statements seem to be rather void, considering Uganda is currently debating a bill in parliament, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would institute the death penalty for many members of Uganda’s LGBT population, and that Beenie Man has had runs-ins for years regarding his public beliefs. So, consumers are left with only two conclusions: either Pepsi is run by women-hating, murder-supporting lunatics, or by people too busy and uninformed to make sound choices about their brand. Neither option is really appealing to any consumer … or spectator.

Truth is, Pepsi is a world-wide brand, so these blunders may cause them a slight dip in sales, but probably not kill them. Lucky for them. But what about your brand?

Let this be a lesson to us all about what it means to be engaged and aware not only of what’s going on within our organization, but also within the best interests of our consumer base as a whole. While it seems that the Ugandan Pepsi representatives were well aware of what the Ugandan people wanted to hear, they were willing to risk the loyalty of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other consumers to reach this group. So, while a tactic like an iPhone App or sponsored event sounds like an effective tool, don’t forget they all impact the overall goal—which in Pepsi’s case, it seems, may be to destroy themselves.

*Photo: Pepsi 2009 MetroPCS_WFA_4color copy MJB_Bridgescape_Logo_Color copy

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