Twitter has been alive with outrage over the Amp Up Before You Score iPhone app, released by Pepsi energy drink brand Amp Energy, which is actually part of PepsiCo's Mountain Dew portfolio. I’ll leave the debate over whether this app is offensive to others. What’s interesting is whether Pepsi is to blame.
PepsiCo is a very large company that owns many, many brands, including the iconic Pepsi brand. Amp Energy is just one of many in its portfolio. It also happens to be a brand that relies heavily on young males. Its advertising has been dominated by NASCAR sponsorship. When I wrote about the Amp Up app on Friday, I spoke with R/GA about the app as part of an effort to reach this young male audience. Let’s face it, Axe and even Burger King have shown that it’s not sophistication that tends to get through.
Now, if this is another energy drink brand, say Rockstar Energy, does this “controversy” happen? I’m guessing no. Admittedly, I chose a headline that stressed Amp being a Pepsi brand because I thought it was noteworthy a large CPG like Pepsi took a risqué approach. At the same time, I doubt I’d write the same about Unilever when it comes to Axe because it has pretty much no brand identity. It’s like a holding company. No matter what you think of the Amp Up app, you can’t deny that a pretty persuasive case of hypocrisy can be leveled versus Unilever for simultaneously running mud-wrestling Axe ads and Dove Real Beauty spots. Pepsi doesn’t have that luxury, I guess, of separating out its brands that way. For what it's worth, Pepsi told me it has no plans to pull the app, despite the chorus of outrage.