Could Pepsi Make Things Right With a Logo That Actually Made the World Better?

Two agency creatives dream up #PepsiCAN

Headshot of Tim Nudd

With its wretched Kendall Jenner ad, Pepsi famously hit a new low among brands paying lip service to social causes. So, where does the brand go from here? At the most basic level, it can stop pretending to make the world a better place—or start genuinely doing so.

Two agency creatives have come up with a plan for the latter course of action—#PepsiCAN, a spec campaign that envisions Pepsi selling cans with redesigned versions of its logo to materially support certain pressing causes.

The idea came from two creatives at DDB San Francisco—copywriter Sai He and art director Will Hammack. (DDB itself was not involved.) To start, they made four redesigned cans, celebrating LGBTQ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights and the NoDAPL effort to stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Proceeds from sales of the cans would go to specifics groups supporting those causes.

The video above explains how it would work. Here’s a print ad they made, too:

AdFreak spoke to He about the project.

How did you come up with this idea? And how annoyed were you by the Pepsi ad?
Although we only came up with #PepsiCAN a week ago, the idea of helping a brand walk the walk instead of walking on eggshells has been brewing for months. So far, 2017 has been the year of brands claiming to take a stand, only to release generic messages of halfhearted, shareholder-conscious support.

One “Hard cut: Cheetos” ad after another has definitely been frustrating. Brands have the platform and potential to champion change and further progress, but aren’t saying anything! So when the Pepsi ad came out and not only didn’t say anything, but appeared to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement to peddle product, that was my tipping point.

#PepsiCAN originated from the core belief that Pepsi should put their money where their mouth is. We thought of many ways to bring the belief to life, and agreed that altering the Pepsi logo for good was the most impactful way to do so.

We drew inspiration from Pepsi’s #SayItWithPepsi emoji campaign, where they replaced the Pepsi logo with silly emojis. It also demonstrates precedence; Pepsi has changed the logo on their cans before, so they should be open to doing it again.

Can you explain why you settled on these four causes, and what went into the design process?
For the video, we settled on four designs that represent today’s most pressing, hot-button social issues in order for it to be a quick “get.” By no means do we believe these are the only four movements that matter. We would urge Pepsi to release additional designs, and perhaps even 12-packs supporting 12 causes.

For each logo, we identified the symbol or colors that represent each cause. The women’s rights logo, for instance, incorporates both the color (purple) and symbol (♀) associated with the movement. From there, we created a consistent visual layout across the four designs, replacing the red and blue parts of the Pepsi logo but maintaining the white stripe that runs across the circle.

If Pepsi actually did this, would it be embraced? Or would it be seen as purely PR/damage control?
It’s definitely an interesting thought experiment, isn’t it? I think it definitely has the potential to be embraced, provided Pepsi pulls a Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” move where they acknowledge that they missed the mark, but are now listening to “the new generation” and working with us to remedy their mistake.

Originally, we toyed with creating a Kickstarter and just asking people to donate on Pepsi’s behalf. However, we believe the idea is stronger—and will be more impactful/likely to happen—if we can start a grassroots movement, get everyday people on board, and (gently) nudge Pepsi in the right direction.

If Pepsi were to actually do this, it’s imperative that they proceed as outlined above; otherwise, to your point, it may just seem like damage control.

What do you think of this idea? Tell us on Facebook.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.