Pepsi and Michael Jackson: Does it still work?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

7 May 2012

It’s desperate and won’t work

Setting aside the morality question concerning it, Pepsi’s announcement that it is “bringing back” Michael Jackson in a series of upcoming ads is a little wrongheaded. After making an agreement with the Jackson estate, Pepsi is aligning the campaign with the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s album, “Bad.”

This won’t be the first time a brand has featured a dead star, superimposing him or her into spots. Remember when Coors Light used John Wayne?

My simple question is, does this tactic ever work? My answer is: Not in my book.

“And it looks like Pepsi is doing it again by desperately clinging to a long ago success that’s no longer viable.”

The attempt is to link the brand (or just the meaning of the spot) to the image of the dead celebrity. John Wayne represents strength, which is why I didn’t get its relationship to Coors Light and why it didn’t work. (Although it made some sense in the context of the spot.)

Michael JacksonAs for Pepsi and Michael Jackson, they had a previous relationship that ended with the notorious on-set accident in 1984 that, some have argued, led to Jackson’s dependence on painkillers.

Whether that’s true or not, the Jackson-Pepsi connection did work back then as Pepsi represented youthful pop culture and the MJ brand was a thrilling version of it. But I don’t think Jackson represents that now, especially considering the circumstances of his death.

This feels like a grab at some quick cash, especially as Diet Coke passed up Pepsi in market share last year. Pepsi, in fact, saw a 4.8% decrease in sales. When the change in the market share was reported last month, Pepsi blamed it on its campaign featuring community service, saying it “didn’t give the Pepsi brand the justice it deserves.”

Agreed. And it looks like Pepsi is doing it again by desperately clinging to a long ago success that’s no longer viable.

See more posts in the following related categories: Michael Jackson Pepsi brand Pepsi market share Pepsi Michael Jackson


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