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When trends go bad

Anyone who watches the ill-conceived Pepsi video featuring Kendall Jenner immediately knows why it’s bad. From the contrived multicultural (and stereotyped) protesters, to the faint wiff of curiosity that sparks Jenner’s ‘genuine’ interest in the march, to the all out exploitation of global mass protests and real struggles for change. How did Pepsi get it so wrong?

Clearly they were trying to tap into one of the biggest trends for 2017 Truthful Consumerism, as identified by the Trend Watching in their quarterly report.

Last year was a mess, let’s face it. I feel like I am still mentally recovering from the shock of everything that happened. From Brexit, Trump and the rise of right wing politics across Europe our general trust in the institutions that govern us have taken a battering.

Last June when Michael Gove declared, “People have had enough of experts,” in regards to being told how to vote on Brexit, I was incredulous, but little did I know how right Mr. Gove was. In addition with the rise of fake news in the US election and Donald Trump instilling further distrust in the media, we are definitely living in a Post-Truth reality, where facts don’t matter and personal beliefs take precedent (literally), no matter how ill informed they may be.

Side note: It’s definitely worth reading the full Trend Watching report on Truthful Consumerism, its causes and consequences.

Trends to tap into

So what are the key takeaways from Trend Watching on how to grow your business in this post truth world?

They definitely lean towards a hopeful view with the importance of progress and innovation, establishing ‘Five Truths’ that will be huge factors in shaping the next year onwards.


Get closer to your customers by shining a light on your darkest corners and build that trust.


Living our lives on Instagram is breeding a new status race with a growing middle class across the world.

Positive Impact

With the race to be our best selves at all cost comes the guilt of consumption. How is your business going to appease our guilt?


As access to education and the drive to diverse urban cities become more prevalent, we (minus the blip we’re in) become more tolerant of diversity. How will your business reflect this?


The golden answer to all of the above, empowerment. By striving to communicate these truths to our customers we empower them and instil a deeper trust in the relationship.

Pepsi’s bad taste

With these truths in mind you see what Pepsi were trying to go for: yes to the tolerance and empowerment. Yes to aspiration with a Kardashian/Jenner on board, and desperately trying to embody a positive impact with their message of love. Where it goes horribly wrong is the lack of transparency and authenticity, or should I say their shallow perception and exploitation of global protest is all too transparent, corrupting the message of true empowerment.

It is truly distasteful and belittles the efforts and struggles of those who are fighting for what they stand for. I’m not surprised it got pulled so quickly, what boggles the mind is how it got so far?

Who got it right?

Seeing this commercial from Pepsi it brought to mind the 2016 Superbowl ad from Air BnB, not because they made the same mistake but because they got it right with a simple yet authentic message of tolerance.

Many of the ads during last year’s Superbowl took on politics and seemed to offer a message directly to the incoming administration. Air BnB’s ad displays and celebrates the diversity of their customers, creating an empowering message. Add ticks to aspiration (that comes with travel) and their recent statement offering accommodation to those affected by the US travel ban, they are making a positive impact.

Where Pepsi tried to embrace the Post-truth trends on a shallow level Air BnB embraces them, making them part of their brand.

I’ll leave you with the SNL sketch that plays out the conversation that should have happened at Pepsi.


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© 2020 by Andrea Edwards trading as The Cut Outs. 

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