Is Backpedaling A New Dance?

By: Sebastian Faura

So recent events can easily be summarized as PR disasters, best used as case studies on how to react in the proper way, how to NOT react in the proper way, and the ramifications of each. In this case, we’ll use the most prominent examples available to us: Pepsi’s insensitive ad, and United’s extremely poor treatment of overbooked passengers that devolved into actual physical confrontation.


Kendall Jenner in the ad. Source:

First example: Pepsi’s ad. Developed by the in-house ad team at Pepsi itself, it could be said that the idea of group think and a failure to outsource its focus groups led to the airing of an ad many have called tasteless, and implied that you could solve serious issues like police brutality, racial bias and social issues by giving your opponents a refreshing can of Pepsi.¬†This is exacerbated by the fact that the key star in this commercial is Kendall Jenner, a celebrity part of a family that many people consider out-of-touch with reality in terms of common concerns that most of the country faces. Pepsi in this case did the right thing in its backpedal, pulling the commercial and stating that its intention was not to trivialize serious efforts for social reform. Damage done, written off. The next case, however, is a bit of a doozy.


A United Airlines plane. Source: Google

United Airlines, like many other airlines, takes part in the practice of overbooking its flights to ensure that no seat on the flight goes unsold. This has some consequences however, and if all people show up to the flight, they will attempt to compensate passengers for being bumped off the flight. In this case, though, they selected a passenger to be removed from the plane (despite asking for volunteers), and airport security ended up assaulting the man, dragging him off the plane. Instead of distancing themselves from that behavior, United’s CEO BACKED the actions of the airline, saying the passenger was belligerent, and gaining even more negative press for the airline.

There’s a certain way to handle things when mistakes are made, especially when the actions taken are out of control of the companies in reference. But sometimes, you have to learn how to posture yourself better, and realize when you’re in the wrong.


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