Pepsi, Niche Marketing, and Neoliberal Social Justice with Samuel Hammond

Samuel Hammond is returning to the podcast today to discuss the relationship between capitalism and social justice.

Sam was prompted to write about this by an insensitive Pepsi commercial that caused some controversy in April 2017.

The controversial ad featured generic protesters and Kendall Jenner sharing a Pepsi with police. While the ad was insensitive and more than a little absurd, Sam pointed out that Pepsi has a history of promoting social justice and racial harmony through its marketing.

Back in 1940, Pepsi was a small player compared to Coca-Cola; the latter selling 25 sodas for each one Pepsi sold. In order to compete, Pepsi’s CEO Walter S. Mack Jr. decided to do something the other companies weren’t doing: marketing specifically to African Americans.

“In 1947, [Mack Jr.] hired Edward F. Boyd, an African-American adman who later became known as one of the fathers of niche-marketing. Boyd crafted ads for Pepsi that celebrated black cultural and professional achievements, and above all portrayed African-Americans as normal, middle-class consumers. It was this marketing push that ultimately drove Pepsi’s rise to the number two soda company in America.”

In pre-civil-rights America, this was a major achievement, and it served a deeper social purpose by extending social recognition to black Americans.

We also discuss some other interesting niche marketing campaigns, like Subaru’s marketing strategy targeting lesbians in the 1990s. Finally, we tie it all back to capitalism as a force promoting diversity and inclusion, with references to Becker’s work on taste-based discrimination.


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