Soda Companies Target Marketing Youth and Minorities

Do Soda Companies unfairly target market youth and minorities in general and how has this affected them?


  1. The Situation

    Over the years there has been a growing concern about obesity and diabetes rates reaching new heights, especially involving the youth along with ethnic minority groups.  Although this epidemic has been a problem for many years, it’s getting worse and worse, and parents, along with health professionals, and many others are wondering just who to blame.  With a new era, has come new technology and ways to reach out to these specific target groups, and the marketing towards them is continuing to become more aggressive.  While many point the blame at the food and drink industry as whole, there are several who feel it is only large companies, with seemingly large amounts of power, like that of the worlds’ top soda companies.  Perhaps the two most popular, and competitive both nationally, and globally, are Coca Cola and Pepsi.  Now more than ever it is being brought up in the news and a lot of arguments being presented.  There are several different stakeholders involved in research and how it has affected different communities, along with a lot of backlash from soda companies  as well as marketing professionals.

  2. What impact do soda companies have on our youth and minority groups?
  3. According to a study done by the Berkley Media Studies Group, statistics show that one in three teens, suffers from obesity or is overweight which can lead to serious health problems in the near or distant future. Critics are pointing fingers at those changing the meaning of “traditional marketing” to being more sophisticated with the use of technology and social media to reach out to children everywhere.  Food and drink marketing are reaching youth at rapid speeds on a daily basis from TV, to computers, to their mobile devices. Because of the technology today, they are bale to track teens via phone and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, to collect numerous amounts of data and build profiles based off the information gathered. 

    The fact that these kids are being targeted and consuming soda (see pictures below) so young is especially a concern.  At this point in there lives its easy for them to get wrapped up in bad habits and make impulse choices.  Due to hormones they get urges that are uncontrollable and once exposed to certain things, mixed with some peer pressure and distraction, they get sucked right into all these marketing tactics. 

    Not only does this occur in the U.S. and for those of white ethnicity, but for ethnic minority groups, specifically children, as well.  Obesity rates for African-American girls and boys are much higher than those of whites and many feel that yes, they are being targeted unfairly.  
  4. In the link above, the second and third charts show the comparison of obesity rates among boys and girls, ages 12 to 19 from different ethnicities.  They show them in the years 1988-1994 as well as from 2007-2008.  It is clear that Non-Hispanic blacks, as well as Mexican Americans, throughout both genders, suffer from higher the obesity rates than that of Non-Hispanic whites. 
  5. The USA Today put out a report done by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.  They took a close look at 14 companies and almost 600 products only to find that sugary drinks, like that of soda, aren't as healthy as they may claim to be.  Also, they too found that target marketing to kids and teens, has been as aggressive as ever.  After doing their research, they found some interesting results.  Some of these results provided from the article above included; "Although the industry promised not to market unhealthy drinks to children, exposure to full-calorie soda TV ads doubled from 2008 to 2010." and Companies target black and Hispanic children and teens. Black children and teens saw up to 90 percent more ads compared with whites. Between 2008 and 2010, Hispanic kids watching Spanish-language TV saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, and Hispanic teens saw 99 percent more ads."
  6. What people are saying and some of the actions being taken
  7. In July of 2012, New York City Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg had imposed law placing a ban on large sodas in restaurants and other businesses that were larger than 16 ounces.  Diabetes rates in New York have been on the rise, and Bloomberg had been involved several projects to try and increase the health of the city.  It wasn't long before this story gained national attention both positive and negative.  Unfortunately for Bloomberg, the court had turned down the law due to the separation of powers of state. 
  8. "Perfect Soldiers" - Gabriel Cortez {The Bigger Picture Project}
  9. Gabriel Cortez is just one of the many who feels minorities are being unfairly targeted.  In this video above he has created a very powerful poem that speaks to the struggles his own family, as well as others around him, have encountered from being targeted by these large companies.  He specifically talks about Coca Cola and how large of an impact it has on the American society.  How our country has become occupied by both the U.S. military, as well as Coca Cola.  It has consumed the lives of those of his race, causing diabetes, yet it is cheaper than clean water in a bottle, so many who are barely getting by are forced to buy soda over water.  This poem and video sends a strong message of how some feel and the impact it has on their societies.  However, he's not the only one who wants to see change in the way soda companies target certain audiences.   
  10. This article is particularly interesting because it begins to show the different side of how people feel about these companies marketing to the youth and minorities.  Todd Putman is a former marketing executive of Coca Cola who was personally involved in creating ways to reach out to and target market Hispanics, African Americans, as well as teenagers.  He had done an interview on ABC news and told them he is regretful for the actions he had taken while working for Coke.  

    Very quickly there were responses to these comments made by Putman.  He hadn't worked for Coca Cola in over 12 years and changes have been made since then.  Although statistics within the article along with many other studies show that sugary drinks are in some ways linked to obesity for some, the author gives his biased opinion.  The author is David Morse, a multicultural market researcher, who as Putman did, worked for a soda company.  However, he doesn't see these companies strategies as being wrong or something to be ashamed of.  Instead, he sees it as smart marketing.  Hispanics and African Americans are interested more in sugary drinks versus diet drinks, juices, or healthy snacks. Marketing to them shows them that they have noticed them and care about their business and he feels there is no need to apologize for this.  They are simply benefiting from this like any smart company would. 
  11. David Morse isn't the only one who sees these strategies as smart marketing.  In fact, many within the soft-drink industry are making it there personal goal to target and reach out to minority groups. "Vive Hoy" means "Live For Now" and was Pepsi's new tagline for marketing to Hispanics.  A few years ago they began to decline on Ad Age 's list of the Top 50 Advertisers in Hispanic Media.  They were losing sight of what was important to them and needed news ways to try and reconnect with Hispanic community. As the title of the article states, there goal was to refocus there attention on Hispanic Marketing all together. 

     "One of the key reasons I came here is to figure out how to dive deeper into the Hispanic space," said Javier Farfan, senior director-cultural branding, who joined PepsiCo two years ago. "In the carbonated category, exponentially, growth is going to come from Latinos. There's the population growth, but we're also more prone to drink soda. So it became really important and strategic for Pepsi to get into that space."

    With experts like these, Pepsi was able to do just that with the use of celebrity athletes, technology, and social media.  They have made several different commercials that can be seen on various networks, as well as websites such as YouTube.  These videos consist of various people, mostly Latinos, enjoying Pepsi and "living for the now". 

    "There's a new mainstream evolving. It's a different state of mind. Latinos don't want to be separate, they want to be included," Mr. Farfan said. "We want to nod and wink to them in places where they actually engage with media. Latinos watch MTV as much as Univision."

    This new form of marketing is something that's becoming popular and more and more industries are taking this approach.  They don't want anyone to feel excluded and despite what others say, they don't seem as if they will be stopping anytime soon.  For so long soda companies such as Coca Cola have been focused on how to relate to Americans, but they too are joining in on this epidemic.  Pepsi even went as far as introducing new flavors of Pepsi for limited times just to appeal to the Hispanic community.  After making moves like these and the "Vive Hoy" campaign, they have gotten back a lot of positive responses from there target market. 

  12. This Pepsi Vive Hoy video appeals to the Hispanic Community without the use of any celebrities but still sticks to the futbol format.  There is a series of different people showing there skills that are often used in futbol and enjoying the refreshing taste of Pepsi in the meantime.  The talents showcased along with the people and music really appeals to the Hispanic audience as a whole. 
  13. Carlos Saavedra is a very important employee at PepsiCo.  He graduated college, landed a job with the well known company and is currently working as the director of cultural strategy for carbonated softs drinks (CSDs).  In the short interview above, he discusses his marketing techniques to reach out to the Hispanic community, specifically with the use of the product from the PepsiCo line, Sierra Mist.  With the use of a rising star, chef Aaron Sanchez, they have found someone who appeals not only the Hispanic community, but the general market as well, due to his work on the Food Network Channel.  

    Towards the end of the interview, Saavedra was asked what was next for him professionally.  His response was, "Right now, I’m focused on preparing for two undeniable trends: The growth of the Hispanic market and the rise of digital and mobile media. Marketing to tomorrow’s multicultural consumers will require totally new approaches in order to break through and be relevant. The work will still be grounded in many of the same principles but activated in different ways and enabled with new technology." 

    Both Carlos Saavedra and Javier Farfan see marketing to Hispanics, along with other minorities, as just another aspect of his job.  They are consumers just like anybody else and feel they should be included and they have taken marketing to these minority communities very seriously.  Also, because technology plays such a large role in people's everyday lives all over, implementing it into their plan, will help increase sales.  For those on the business side, and especially involved in marketing, see all of this as successful or smart marketing strategies. 
  14. If so many people are so against these companies, why haven't they been stopped?