At the present moment, the cultural and political climate of the United States is quite divided and full of passion. The internet amplifies that passion, creates movements and elicits conversations. These different movements and conversations take place both online and off. And, as an old Millennial (at age 35), this is the first time in my lifetime that I recall so much engagement in political and social conversations.
Tapping into all that is happening socially and politically, Pepsi recently launched an ad, which they say: "...reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that's an important message to convey." While their sentiment is clearly on point, the execution of the ad was not well-received.
The Twittersphere erupted with outrage over this ad with accusations of insensitivity toward protests and the current political and social climate.
Now, I don't know what kind of research went into the execution of this ad, and I'm sure given Pepsi's quick pulling of the ad, all will soon be forgotten and forgiven. However, there is a good lesson here on the importance of understanding culture from diverse lenses.
Diversity comes in many forms: ethnicity, religion, political views, gender, sexual orientation, geography and so many other things.
And how people view the nuances of our culture is impacted by many facets that make up who they are ethnically, religiously, politically, etc. Moreover, the ability to voice one's opinion, which is impacted by culture, is amplified by social media and the internet.
The mash up of unique people viewing this ad rooted in their own experiences and opinions and then having a platform from which to react is perfectly exhibited by this event.
When it comes to understanding culture and its influence on society and diversity; it is not enough to talk about a hot, trendy topic. Brands that want to succeed have the duty to know why those topics matter to their consumers. As marketers and researchers, we cannot control the voice of the people, but we can harness it for good. We can be sure our research conversations are with diverse (in all senses of the word) audiences; we can be keen observers of culture to understand where consumer opinions are coming from, and we can listen to each opinion individually to understand where broader cultural sensitivities may lie. Finally, we must interpret findings by thinking beyond the research and with a keen eye to how it may relate to the current culture we live in.