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.