UPDATE: 22 Newsletters That Should Slide Into Your Inbox

UPDATE: 22 Newsletters That Should Slide Into Your Inbox

While most people don't like their inbox cluttered with more mail than it needs, I actually look forward to receiving certain e-newsletters on a daily and weekly basis. I love reading and learning new things, so each newsletter is an opportunity for me to add to my toolbox of knowledge (or 'stay woke' as the kids say.)

So in no particular order, peep the 22 e-newsletters that you should to subscribe to ASAPington.

5 Things Pepsi Should've Considered Before Releasing Their Latest Ad Campaign

Yesterday, Pepsi released its new ad campaign featuring model and reality personality Kendall Jenner that has immediately fizzled and fallen flat. (See what I did there?)

If you haven’t seen the spot in its entirety, click below to take a look. 

The commercial not only shows Kendall Jenner’s blatant awareness of her privilege as a white woman living in America, but it shows her faux attempt to be the savior of this generation. After she is subtly persuaded by an attractive Asian male cellist to join a protest in process, she offers an armed officer a can of Pepsi - to which the crowd goes wild as he accepts and the problem of racism is magically solved forever.

But I can't put the full and complete blame on Jenner. She was just out here trying to get a check. Pepsi thought it would be cool to have art imitate life, so they took a page from the headlines, created a fake movement and put a white woman at the center of it all, charging her to “save” millennial humanity because, duh, white feminism. They did all of this by using people of color as props, glamorizing protesting and misrepresenting police involvement during such events which we know, historically, hasn’t always been as peaceful.

Y’all. How is it that in 2017 these major brands and companies are STILL completely tone deaf? Who was (or wasn’t) present in the marketing suite and thought that this particular treatment was okay to spend millions of dollars on, and to then share with the American people? What is this lackluster message of false hope saying to future generations who want to actually create change?

The most problematic frame in the entire commercial is when Jenner hands an ice cold Pepsi to an armed officer, to which he shrugs and gladly accepts because, why not?

You know what this frame strangely reminds me of? 28-year-old Ieshia Evans standing peacefully in the middle of a Baton Rouge street last summer, while armed cops ran up on her out of their own fear.

Photo: USA Today/Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Photo: USA Today/Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Again Pepsi, you tried it.

As a marketing and communications professional, it is my job to always think ahead of how messaging strategies and tactics are going to be perceived by the consumer. Whether I am drafting copy for a client or reviewing content edits created by a consultant, I am always keeping the end user at the top of mind, and how they are going to absorb and digest messaging that is intended to empower them. More importantly, I want to ensure that they have enough accurate information to then create their own thoughts and feelings from it.

Pepsi thought they could recreate a rather vivid memory of our culture’s recent history to increase sales of their product, all the while demonstrating they are socially conscious to a generation who strives to always “stay woke.” But in the end, their million dollar ad just ended up being insensitive, tasteless and sleeping on the real reason why people continue to fight for justice in these streets.

While I could continue to dwell on the negative, I want to do my due diligence as a practitioner and offer up a few suggestions that could serve as lessons learned for such an iconic brand like PepsiCola.

Here are the five things that Pepsi SHOULD have done in order to better execute their “Live Bolder, Live Louder, Live For Now” campaign:

  1. Choose someone other than a Kardashian/Jenner to be the face of your “faux woke” campaign. When has Kendall Jenner EVER spoke out about issues of racial equality and police brutality? (That’s okay, I’ll wait.) I won’t speak to her character because I don’t know her personally, but from what I and the rest of the world know about her persona, she isn’t very involved in any type of movement. Now someone who might have been a much better choice for this ad campaign? Yara Shahidi. My little sister in my head has a proven track record for speaking out on everything from racial equality to politics to ambition. While I do believe she would have had many, many issues with the treatment as it currently stands, she would have been a more accurate representation of this progressive generation.

  2. Make sure that there is more than one person of color in the room to help make final decisions. I can guess that there was probably one (maybe two) black ad or public relations executives present during the brainstorming stage of this project. Unfortunately because there continues to be a lack of our voices in positions of management at creative agencies and major corporations, here we are. This is so much bigger than diversity and inclusion, but it speaks to the necessity of adequate representation when it comes to marketing and advertising to communities of color. My fellow #blkcreatives - let this be a lesson to us all. If something doesn’t sit right with us in the planning meeting, it’s not going to sit right with our peers who have to watch/read/listen to the end result. If you see something, please don't be afraid to say something. 

  3. Don’t insult the intelligence of your consumer base. How many of you think that Pepsi performed a focus group before making the final decision on this ad? Anyone? Bueller? It’s astonishing to me that Pepsi didn’t consider the backlash they would receive from this ad, let alone approval from their fan base. A simple viewing of a rough draft of the commercial, followed by a short set of questions to a diverse group of millennials would have been an opportunity to test messaging and imagery, as well as overall tone and pitch of the advertisement. In situations like these, it’s important to think beyond the bottom line and be mindful of the ask you’re really making of your customer.

  4. Acknowledge diversity, but don’t stereotype it. The black guy with the cornrows absolutely did NOT have to “hit them folks” upon the cop receiving his congratulatory Pepsi. The black woman did NOT have to have that knotty ass wig thrown at her, nor did she need to look as though she was the help. How come Asian man played the cello? Why were the white girls sitting at brunch complete oblivious to what what happening right in front of them? Is there a reason why the young Muslim woman was the only one capturing this moment on film? These are questions that need real answers. Representation will always be a major key, but it shouldn’t be exploited. For decades, Pepsi has been a brand that has celebrated uniquity among all people. This commercial chose to shine the brightest spotlight on everyone’s differences, without really providing clear context to why they were being displayed in the first place.

  5. Stay in your damn lane. - Pepsi has always been a brand that acknowledges the influence of our culture’s young generation. However, not one person asked Pepsi to make a radical statement by putting Kendall Jenner in the midst of such a sensitive space like a protest with armed police officers. They didn’t do that with Beyonce or Britney, so why try it now? It’s okay to allow your marketing formula to evolve as a sign of the times, but if it ain’t broke - don’t break it.  

My hope is always that other companies will learn from Pepsi's mistakes. Now more than ever, it is vital that brands take the steps necessary to ensure that their marketing and advertising efforts are not only visually appealing, but culturally sensitive and provide an accurate reflection of our society's ever-evolving landscape.

What were your thoughts on the Pepsi ad? Send me a tweet or comment below.



UPDATE: As of this afternoon, Pepsi has pulled the advertisement, and issued an apology

3 Brand Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From "Formation"


"Okay ladies (and gents) now let's get in formation..."

This weekend was undoubtedly another big one for multi-platinum artist Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as she surprised the world yet again with new music, stunning visuals and the announcement of a world tour. But this isn't the first time that Queen Bey has stopped the world and changed the game with her infamous digital drops. On December 13, 2013, she (without warning) released her much anticipated self-titled album that included stimulating music videos for each of the fourteen songs. On November 21, 2014, she casually uploaded the dance anthem "7/11" to her YouTube channel and had the Internet eager to recreate this modern day masterpiece which was filmed using a GoPro camera.

And just this past Saturday afternoon, she shocked us all with the very politically driven video for her latest hit "Formation" in which she discusses the issues of policy brutality, social injustice, southern culture and black feminism. Within hours, millions of people knew the lyrics to the song, were determined to learn the flawless dance moves and began formulating their own opinions about the symbolism behind each frame of the video.

Beyoncé has become quite the queen of mystery in recent years, but she has also created a series of case studies that marketers, publicists and media professionals alike can learn from. While we may not have a multi-million dollar advertising or marketing budget, there are few tactics that you can practice in order to execute a successful brand marketing strategy.


1. Practice the drip effect. In mid-January, rumors began to swirl around the Interwebs that Mrs. Carter was slated to join Coldplay on stage during the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show. That same week, she was spotted on the campus of the University of Southern California, rehearsing for her performance. Days later, Coldplay also released their colorful video for "Hymn For The Weekend" featuring the Houston native. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Beyoncé and her team wanted you to think that she was going to simply join the band on stage and perform this up-beat mellow tune. These subtle drops not only started to created buzz, but they raised eyebrows because it is quite rare that she participates in feature projects at random. In the words of DJ Khaled, "she was up to something."

The lesson here: When it comes to large projects or major roll-outs, it's always imperative to provide your audience with morsels of content to keep them engaged and wanting more. Beyoncé's fans (also known as the #BeyHive) are pretty good at following her lead, but even they didn't see this surprise coming.


2. Tell them less, show them more.  Fast forward to February 6th, when Beyoncé  was like, "Hey, screw your Saturday afternoon" and debuted her newest single "Formation." By now, you would think the world has gotten used to expecting the unexpected from Queen Bey, but without fail the Internet still implodes. On the bass-heavy track, Beyoncé comes out the gate swinging -- acknowledging her "haters", and stating that she's going to stunt in all of her regality regardless of what silly rumors they spew her way:

Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess // Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh 

I'm so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin') // I'm so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces

In addition to telling her haters where to go and how to get there, she lets us know that she's quite the boss and is proud of it too. Her canvas is modern-day New Orleans, Louisiana, a city that has experienced its fair share of trials and tribulations over the last decade but whose heart still rings strong in its unique and historical culture.

The lesson here: When it comes to storytelling, make sure the message is authentic, especially if your goal is to connect with or empower a specific audience to take action. In "Formation", Beyoncé highlights that she is not only proud of her southern roots, but also very aware of her impact as a black woman in the 21st century. Over the last 48 hours, Beyonce has inspired numerous conversations about race, class and wealth in this country. And although she admits she has made a lot of money over the course of her career, she's not afraid to remain true to herself.


3. Keep the conversation going.  After being completely overwhelmed by the song and the video, the world woke up Sunday morning wondering what could Queen Bey possibly think of next. Was she going to release another surprise an album? Is there a world tour on the horizon? Maybe both? As expected, she shut it down during her Super Bowl Halftime performance - which has raised even more eyebrows and caused an abundance of controversy. And once the performance was over, there was a 30-second spot announcing her new world tour which will begin this spring.

The lesson here: Continue to give your audience them something to talk about, even after the curtain has closed. A great brand is consistent, so now that you've provided your followers with hints and shown what you're capable of, it's important to maintain that momentum. Beyonce will ride this wave until her album drops, and then switch the course of the conversation (like she always does.) In a similar practice, your audience will be more susceptible to any new and exciting activation ideas you may have coming next.

What's the biggest lesson you learned from Mrs. Carter this weekend? Tweet me your thoughts!