Spitfire Strategies

Three Things Communicators Can Learn from Pepsi’s Failed Ad


This week, Pepsi released a protest-inspired ad featuring Kendall Jenner that went viral…but probably not in the way they had hoped. Following an outcry that the brand was exploiting and trivializing protests – from the civil rights era to today’s Black Lives Matter movement – Pepsi removed the ad and apologized to Jenner (not those offended) for the misstep. However, the damage was done.

During these tumultuous times, communicators and marketers are struggling to remain relevant while promoting their products and messaging. But, it’s a fine line to walk and not many are getting it right. Here’s how to make sure you do:

  • Identify a clear message. While it’s important to be timely, you don’t want to be seen as opportunistic. Are there real ways your brand can make a difference? What are they? Are you already doing them, or do you have a plan in place? That should be the starting point for your message.
  • Choose a credible messenger. The person or people who deliver your message should have some lived experience in the topic at hand. It may be tempting to go for the shinier, glossier option with the most followers, but if there’s little substance, your message will be lost among the deserved criticism you’ll receive.
  • Ask the right people the right questions. Who are your decision makers? Do they reflect the audiences you’re trying to reach? Involving people with lived experience helps you avoid being tone deaf and encourages creativity.

The current political climate offers an opportunity for communicators to connect with their audience on a deeper level by tapping into shared values, but it is vital for organizations to truly understand the conversation before inserting themselves into it.

“This has been a tremendous eye opener. It shows us how to pull the aspects of communications skills, from the message, to the audience. It forced us to identify our strengths and our weaknesses in an effort to become more strategic in how we prepare our messages and communicate them.”

- Training Participant

Decolonizing Narratives and Communicating Justice: Spitfire at ComNet19

Mike Carter-Conneen

By Mike Carter-Conneen

  At the Communications Network Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, Spitfire Strategies was proud to host a breakout session called “Decolonizing Narratives: Authentic Messaging, Ceding Control and Reckoning with Reality.” The panel, moderated by Spitfire Director Nima Shirazi, explored the blind spots of communication professionals, the problematic choices we can… (read more)

Spitfire’s 17th Season: Leading an Evolution

Kristen Grimm

By Kristen Grimm

  2002. It was a big year. George W. Bush came up with the term “Axis of Evil.” Serena Williams won her first single’s title at Wimbledon. American Idol premiered and MTV unleashed “The Osbournes” reality show. I also started my own reality series – Spitfire Strategies. It is in… (read more)

Making Your Pitches Count: Tips for Top-Notch Media Pitching Part Three

Hannah Ross

By Hannah Ross
Senior Account Executive

  Communication professionals are no strangers to the challenges that journalists are facing today, from the demands of the 24-hour news cycle to budget shortfalls and understaffed newsrooms. We respect them for their tenacity and commitment to uncovering the truth, and we value being able to build relationships with them… (read more)

Sign up to receive Spitfire Sparks

You’ll receive our latest smarts on the causes you care about and updates on our free tools.