A sales pitch slogan for a product is very important because it induces a self-marketing force among the audience. It allows promotion of a product and engagement with customers for a long time after the launch of the product. It is a phrase that tries to penetrate and stay in a consumers mind to remind them about the product every time they are shopping (Peattie, 1993). The catchy phrase can, however, leave a bad taste in the audiences mouths if care is not taken because naturally human beings are sensitive. That was the case for PepsiCos new Pepsi Diets slogan Skinnier Is Better during the launch of 2011 Fashion-Week (SKIDMORE, 2017).
When PepsiCos marketing team came up with the slogan to promote their new can, they were obviously looking to capitalize on chronemics. According to their chief marketing officer, the slim and attractive new can was the perfect complement to current stylish look but most of the audience took the pitch as offensive and opportunistic (Goldwert & Goldwert, 2017). No matter how Pepsi may try to defend it, citing that the audience had misinterpreted the phrase, the timing of the launch works against. They decided to lunch the can during the fashion week when the skinny women, portrayed as the beautiful women, dominate the media. There was no doubt that pitch was glorifying the skinnier women, which totally unethical because it was insensitive and it further fueled the stereotypical false impression that growing slim is the only way a woman would look beautiful (Guckel, 2017).
The fact that PepsiCo was capitalizing on a sensitive subject of women and their body sizes, the marketing pitch clearly violates the AMA fundamental code of ethics framework to embrace ethical values ("Statement of Ethics", 2017). This norm dictates that the marketers actions should primarily promote the consumers confidence by upholding responsibility and respect values. This was not the case with the pitch. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the data shows over 1 out of 3 adults in America are considered overweight with over 60% of the women considered overweight or obese (Fryar,2016). It is clear that the company did not consider the emotional and confidence bruise the pitch would cause to the population with body sizes brushed-off as not beautiful according to the trends.
If one was to look at PepsiCos case from a philosophical ethical framework point of view postulated by Immanuel Kant, it is clear that the company disregarded the ethicality of their activity (Takala & Uusitalo, 1996). The first principle of Kantianism emphasizes rational actions. If truly the company were rational during the coming up of the pitch, they would have given a thought to the people who struggle with weight issues. They completely ignored the fact that 63% of the adolescents and youth are consumers of the beverage, who are sensitive about their bodys sizes and go through a hard time overcoming the stereotypes against big bodies (Rosinger, 2017).
The second principle of Kantianism dictates that an action should promote other people to make rational decisions (Bowie, 2017). When PepsiCo put up the slogan skinnier is better, they publicly give a notion that the goal for women should be trying to grow thin. This evidently promotes the audience especially the vulnerable women to make irrational decisions to try and conform to the ill and baseless standard. When a message gets into the vulnerable group, it is likely that they will engage in unhealthy eating which is life threatening. This makes the marketing approach the company took completely unacceptable according to the framework.
The other principle, just like the AMAs code of ethics framework, emphasizes on respect for people, their individual differences, and needs, as well as, their autonomy. Naturally, people are different and so are their body sizes for this case. If the companys marketing team had appreciated this fact, they would not have promoted the autonomous view that the super skinny body should be the ideal. They brushed off the fact that everyone attaining the skinny figure is almost impossible. Furthermore, there is a very big percentage of the population that does not even desire it.
The last principle of the framework dictates that action should be driven by goodwill. Despite the companys claim that their slogan was misinterpreted, the wording and timing of the launch prove that they were looking to take advantages of the womens body sizes insecurities, which is extremely unethical by all standards. If their intentions were driven by goodwill as they purported, they would have emphasized the health aspect rather than the skinny body.
As it has been seen, PepsiCos marketing pitch stepped out of the ethical code of practice defined by both the AMA and the Kantianism marketing and philosophical ethical frameworks. Though the approach may have worked with the target audience who hold the same ideologies, it was unethical to ignore the fact that body image is a sensitive subject among people and it is inappropriate to take advantage of peoples insecurities to their boost sales.
Bowie, N. E. (2017). Business ethics: A Kantian perspective. Cambridge University Press.Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Ogden CL. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 19621962 through 20112014. National Center for Health Statistics Data, Health E-Stats, July 2016. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_adult_13_14/obesity_adult_13_14.htm
Guckel, K. (2017). Pepsi Slogan Skinnier Is Better Gets a Big Fat No (2011). Businessethicscases.blogspot.co.ke. Retrieved 12 October 2017, from http://businessethicscases.blogspot.co.ke/2013/02/pepsi-slogan-skinnier-is-better-gets.html
Goldwert, L., & Goldwert, L. (2017). Debut of skinny Pepsi controversial. NY Daily News.Retrieved 12 October 2017, from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/skinny-diet-pepsi-fat-mistake-beverage-company-article-1.122491
Peattie, K., & Peattie, S. (1993). Sales promotionplaying to win?. Journal of Marketing Management, 9(3), 255-269.Rosinger A, Herrick K, Gahche J, Park S. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among U.S. youth, 20112014. NCHS Data Brief. No 271. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.
SKIDMORE, S. (2017). Diet Pepsi 'skinny' can stirs up big controversy. msnbc.com. Retrieved 12 October 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41540062/ns/business-us_business/t/diet-pepsi-skinny-can-stirs-big-controversy/
Statement of Ethics. (2017). Archive.ama.org. Retrieved 11 October 2017, from https://archive.ama.org/Archive/AboutAMA/Pages/Statement%20of%20Ethics.aspx
Takala, T., & Uusitalo, O. (1996). An alternative view of relationship marketing: a framework for ethical analysis. European Journal of marketing, 30(2), 45-60.
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