You’ve heard a bit of noise about Alibaba recently, no? The Chinese search/e-commerce giant that is, from what we can tell, a mashup of Amazon, Google and eBay. It’s basically the biggest name in Chinese tech, and it’s about to go public in what should be one of Wall Street’s biggest deals in recent years.
Today the company announced a shrewd move: it has hired James R. Wilkinson, a former senior Treasury Department official with the George W. Bush administration, as its “head of international corporate affairs.”
He served advisory/chief of staff roles in the offices of both Treasury head Henry Paulson and secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.
Get hands-on social media training in our online boot camp, Social Media 101! Starting September 4, social media and marketing experts will help you determine the social media sites that matter most to you, based on your personal and professional goals. Register before July 31 and get $50 OFF with early bird pricing. Register now!
Ever tried to set your soda on fire and notice that it just wouldn’t light up?
Yesterday brought yet another case of a big brand responding to social media peer pressure.
In a story that’s oddly similar to the ongoing GMO “debate”, the Coca-Cola Company announced yesterday that it would stop using “brominated vegetable oil”, which happens to contain a flame-retardant chemical called bromine, in some of its beverages.
Here’s a nice description of bromine’s effects via the CDC:
“Bromine works by directly irritating the skin, mucous membranes, and tissues.”
Sounds pleasant. We can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to drink it.
Today in Put Your Clothes Back On news: we can add Naked Juice to the quickly growing line of foodstuff brands settling class-action lawsuits over deceptive health claims. Parent brand PepsiCo clearlymissed the message about transparency being the best PR practice around, effectively admitting in the settlement that its “all natural” marketing claims are less than 100% accurate.
We’re not talking pasteurization here, people: the smoothie fakers include such “unnaturally processed and synthetic” ingredients as zinc oxide, ascorbic acid, and calcium pantothenate, all of which sound better suited to a meth lab than an orange grove (insert your Breaking Bad shout out here). In fact, that last one is derived from formaldehyde, to which we say: ewww, man. Ewww.
The juice may taste good, and it’s a hell of a lot healthier than much of the stuff we shove into our faces on a regular basis, but it’s hardly the “freshest” or the “purest” thing around, no?
Mountain Dew is pulling an ad created by the founder of hip-hop group Odd Future, Tyler Gregory Okonma (better known as Tyler, the Creator) after it elicited cries of racism. A professor at Syracuse University even called it “arguably the most racist commercial in history.”
After watching the video ourselves, all we can say is…WOW. Racial profiling and violence against women all wrapped up in one extremely bizarre and undeniably offensive package.
Not only is it the most racially insensitive spot we’ve seen in recent memory, but it promotes so many dangerous and offensive stereotypes at once that it’s hard to know what to be angry about first. The ad features a white detective (holding a Mountain Dew) urging a bandaged-up white woman to pick her assailant out of a lineup of all African American men (and one extremely threatening goat, voiced by Tyler himself).
As the woman tries to pick out her attacker (the goat), he threatens her with phrases like “You shoulda gave me some more; I’m nasty” and “You better not snitch on a playa. Snitches get stitches.” When the woman is too intimidated to continue, the detective says takes a swig of his Mountain Dew and says, “She’s just gotta dew it.” Really? That was all leading up to a pun?
PepsiCo gave the following statement to AdWeek after the uproar: “We understand how this video could be perceived by some as offensive, and we apologize to those who were offended…We have removed the video from all Mountain Dew channels and have been informed that Tyler is removing it from his channels as well.”
While pulling the ad and apologizing were probably the right moves, we found the language of the apology a bit unimpressive. They don’t take responsibility for creating and releasing an ad that was very clearly in poor taste; instead, they apologize that it “could be perceived by some as offensive.” In other words, the responsibility really rests upon the hyper-critical audience. But maybe now we’re being hyper-critical? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.
UPDATE (5/3/13): Perhaps we weren’t being hyper-critical about PepsiCo’s halfhearted apology. The brand released a new (more apologetic) statement yesterday afternoon, saying: “We Apologize for this video and take full responsibility. We have removed it from all Mountain Dew Channels and Tyler is removing it from his channels as well.”
We’ve talked a lot recently about the PR wars over food labeling, but what happens when labels already offer complete transparency and customers don’t like what they see?
Aveyca Price of Georgia recently noticed that her bottle of Powerade contained brominated vegetable oil, a synthetic chemical used to prevent separation in soft drinks that, if consumed in high amounts over a long period of time, can build up in the body and cause serious toxic effects. Oh, and it’s also a flame retardant.
Surprised and concerned that her sports drink contained a chemical so controversial it has been banned in over 100 countries, Price decided to take action.
Because an online petition that received over 200,000 signatures recently helped prompt Pepsico to phase out BVO from its Gatorade sports drinks (although it’s still present in Mountain Dew), Price created a similar petition on Change.org asking Coca-Cola, makers of Powerade, to do the same. Within its first month, Price’s campaign gained over fifty thousand supporters. “Fifty thousand people (signing) within a month is amazing. I’m surprised and I’m glad I have that many people backing me up,” she said.
Yesterday Coca-Cola finally addressed its nemesis PepsiCo by laying its promotional cards on the table and declaring: “We’ll see your Beyoncé and raise you a Taylor Swift.”
Like the Beyoncé deal, Swift/Diet Coke will be a “long-term” relationship between everyone’s favorite low-calorie soda and everyone’s favorite musical memoirist that will integrate Swift “into all key marketing efforts” for Diet Coke’s Stay Extraordinary campaign. Her latest album title, Red, even complements the brand. It’s almost like she knew this would happen…
We think we get Coca-Cola’s strategy here: Swift, despite being one of the world’s biggest pop stars, has a reputation for being close to her (overwhelmingly female) fan base. The video she released announcing the partnership and encouraging supporters to visit Diet Coke’s Facebook page is a good example of this personal branding aesthetic in action:
The biggest story in the global branding game over the past few months was the innovative partnership between Pepsi and Beyoncé–a deal that gives an unprecedented degree of creative power to the world’s biggest pop star. Mark Bittman may not think it’s OK for celebrities to sell soda, but that won’t stop Pepsi’s new frontwoman from dominating America’s biggest PR stunt, The Super Bowl.*
One thing you almost certainly won’t hear Beyoncé discussing in 2013: the relationship between soft drinks and obesity. A certain other soda, on the other hand, just announced plans to address the issue directly.
This surprises us as much as anybody, but Pepsico‘s mortal enemy Coca-Cola just took a first step into the public health fray by creating a campaign designed to address America’s obesity epidemic–all in the company’s own best interests, of course.
PepsiCo recently signed a sponsorship deal with Beyoncé worth a reported $50 million—but we’re not terribly concerned with news about a pop singer promoting a soda company.
We’re more interested in the nature of the relationship between the two parties, which seems to have broken new ground when it comes to sponsorships and invites the question: Who is promoting whom?
Pepsi calls the contract a “brand ambassador” deal, and the accompanying New York Timesheadline mentions Pepsi’s focus on “collaboration”. What do these terms mean, exactly? Well, Beyoncé won’t just appear on Pepsi products, star in commercials, and perform in next year’s Pepsi-sponsored Super Bowl: Her contract also includes “a multimillion-dollar fund to support the singer’s chosen creative projects.”
Correct us if we’re wrong, but this move is unprecedented—or at the very least extremely rare.
Last week we reported on a great ad by SodaStream, the masters of DIY carbonation. While we find the concept of homemade soda fascinating, we were mostly concerned with UK ad regulatory body Clearcast‘s decision to take the ad off the air for potentially offending the hyper-sensitive small business owners Coca-Cola and Pepsico. Won’t someone think of the little guys?
Anyway, today brings encouraging news: Instead of admitting defeat and slinking off to pout in a corner, SodaStream’s communications team decided to make the most of the ongoing “debate” by airing a second spot called “Bubble Blackout” that consists of a black screen featuring the words “if you love the bubbles, set them free” atop the first ad’s audio. The video concludes with a link allowing viewers to defy the ban by viewing the offending spot on YouTube.
If you’ve been watching TV in the US over the past several days, you may have seen this new ad for SodaStream, a device that allows bubble-lovers to create their own soft drinks at home, thereby saving both money and bottles.
Personally, we found the 30-second spot created by Alex Bogusky clever and visually appealing. Authorities in the UK pulled the commercial, however, citing their own opinion that it “could be seen to tell people not to go to supermarkets and buy soft drinks, [and] instead help to save the environment by buying a SodaStream”. This message, they determined, could be seen as “denigration of the bottled-drinks market”. Um…gee, a commercial that encourages customers to ditch the competition in favor of the product it’s pushing? Witchcraft!