In Pepsi’s New Campaign, “Skinny” Means “Confident”

After announcing its new “skinny” can, launched on Thursday for the beginning of Fashion Week, Pepsi has gotten a mountain of criticism from women’s rights advocates who say that the campaign uses tired body image stereotypes to imply that skinny women are more beautiful and confident. 

The company says that the “taller, sassier” can was designed in “celebration of beautiful, confident women.”  It accompanies a series of events that Pepsi, a Fashion Week cosponsor, will host in collaboration with designers like Betsey Johnson.  The chief marketing officer for Pepsi explained, “Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today’s most stylish looks, and we’re excited to throw its coming-out party during the biggest celebration of innovative design in the world.”

This is an obviously problematic marketing campaign, in that Pepsi is directly implying that “skinny,” “confident” and “beautiful” are all synonymous.  The National Eating Disorders Association said that the company’s comments were “thoughtless and irresponsible.”  Writing for Slate, Libby Copeland said that the approach seemed more “tone-deaf” than usual:

“Consumers exposed to the Dove campaign and countless debates on model over-thinness want a more sophisticated argument these days.  We expect to hear lip service paid to the world’s diversity of beauty, even if it’s only that.”

She added that this was more of the “same old story – aspirational, looks-oriented advertising with a thin layer of faux-empowerment on top. If you’re confident on the inside, you’ll be skinny on the outside, or something.”

Copeland’s point about consumers seeming to want more nuance is interesting – and it makes me wonder how successful the new can will be.  It won’t appear on shelves until March, and even then, it won’t replace the old design.  So maybe this insensitive piece of marketing won’t make much of an impression.  But on the other hand, this is a place where we can exercise our consumer power, and show Pepsi that this kind of shallow advertising just doesn’t fly.

Photo from Flickr.

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Sandra W.
Sandra W.4 years ago

Hollywood has a distorted sense of body image anyway! When it gets to the point that the media thinks Tyra Banks and Jennifer Love Hewitt are fat!! You have a serious distortion of what pretty really is!!! Both of these ladies are beautiful as they are! Oprah is awesome the way she is!!

Sandra W.
Sandra W.4 years ago

Well I drink soda! I am not changing who I am. I am confident the way that I am. True beauty lies within. Confidence comes from within and from ones character. You can't get character from a can! Women of all shapes are beautiful as they are. If someone can not accept me for who I am then move on down the road!!!

Linn W.
Linn W.4 years ago

soft drinks are poison, and diet soft drinks even more so. fads come & go, who cares? practice & teach yr kids healthy balanced eating, teach them to be wary of advertising gimmicks--they are there to SELL a product. remember Virginia Slims--so sexy & slender--and cancer causing!

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.4 years ago

No more Pepsi around this house!!! I personally do not drink any soda pop anyway.
Karyn E, lighten up!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman4 years ago


Carmen Bouwhuis Jansen

Unbelievebel !

John T.
John T.4 years ago

BFD. When did it become appropriate in America to swill down Pepsi OR Coke at every meal and for snacks in between?
When did the ditzos at the school boards get the GREAT idea that soda machines should be all over school grounds and available for lunches?
When we grew up in the 50s soda was a treat. We didn't get dessert every night and we sure as He!! didn't get a bottle of soda every time we wanted one. Maybe 2 or 3 in a week IF we were lucky.
The only Coke machine was in the Teacher's Lounge and we sure weren't allowed in there.
Put a $1.00 a can tax on the stuff just like they do alcohol or cigarettes. That'll slow down the people who forgot about milk and water for meals.

jill bukovnik
jill Campbell4 years ago

I wish advertisers would get the message....we want real woman in commercials and t.v. shows. I love the Dove ads, their real, people can identify with these women and feel good about themselves.

Most of the women's magazines are airbrushed to the point that it's impossible for anyone to be able to measure up to that. You look at the women and immediately feel bad about yourself. Your self esteem hits bottom and your brain goes round and round saying "why can't I look like that. I'm a fat pig with no self control. etc. etc."

The Pepsi people have got their ad completely wrong. They should have used the slim can to let women know that it's slimmer and easier to hold, looks classier when a group of woman are sitting around drinking and laughing, women now have a choice..they don't have to buy the old fat style anymore that appeal to "macho men". etc. etc.

Pepsi chose to take a big backwards step to the dark ages where women do not want to be. Someday, I hope the magazines will also get the message.


Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley4 years ago

So the 'taller, sassier; can is just for beautiful, confident women?
What a load of cack. Reinforcing stereotypes is just pathetic. However, following on with their idiocy, when is the 'macho can' released, with it's washboard abs and muscles?
Pepsi... grow up. And the rest of us, let's not buy into their drivel.

Eileen M.
Eileen M.4 years ago

Karyn Elliot,
No one is stopping you from drinking whatever you want from whatever you want to drink it from. Calling other women fat pigs is pretty low of you though. Enjoy your body wrecking soda and continue to feel superior, but you might want to resist the urge to attack others in the process.