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Pepsi's iPhone Blunder

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Poor PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) . The soft-drink and salty-snack giant rolled out an edgy program through Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) App Store this month to promote its AMP energy drink, but it's proving to be more sexist than sexy.

The "AMP UP Before You Score" application is "a roadmap to success with your favorite kinds of women," offering pickup lines based on one of two dozen stereotypes.

If the cheat sheet leads to a successful tryst, you can add her contact information to your "Brag List" and have the app brag about your conquest through Facebook, Twitter, or email.

We're all grown-ups here -- or at least adult enough to pass the simple age-verification check of clicking "OK" to confirm that the app user is at least 17 -- so there is clearly some humor to be mined in the singles scene.

Click on "treehugger," and you can find local vegan restaurants, your fake carbon-footprint number, and pickup lines such as, "You have my heart melting faster than the polar ice caps."

If this were Axe body spray or an indie beer company -- or even a stand-alone energy-drink maker such as Red Bull or Monster parent Hansen Natural (Nasdaq: HANS  ) -- this would be little more than a head-shaker or a chuckle-maker, depending on how you take your comedy. But this isn't the sort of "go for broke" campaign that a smaller bottler in the vein of Jones Soda (Nasdaq: JSDA  ) can pull off.

Unfortunately, this is PepsiCo, the same company that wants to sell kids Cap'n Crunch cereal, Gatorade thirst quenchers, and Tropicana juices. Just as Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) can't afford to stray too far from its family-friendly path in any of its divisions for fear of consumer boycotts, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) have no choice but to play it safe.

PepsiCo hasn't pulled the app. I was able to download it this afternoon. However, I'd be shocked if it sticks around. You can't market to the masses if you cross a line that many consumers will find objectifying and in poor taste.

What was PepsiCo thinking? Any business that AMP gains from the publicity is likely to be more than offset elsewhere.

Did PepsiCo go too far? If it did, and it bows to activist pressure, can Rick put it in his "Brag List" later? Share your support or criticism in the comment box below.

Hansen Natural is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple and Walt Disney are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Walt Disney and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

 Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has an iPhone loaded with free apps, and maybe four or five that he has paid for. He owns shares of Disney and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 15, 2009, at 9:17 AM, malphigian wrote:

    All the commentary around this mentions "it'd be fine if Axe Body Spray did this" -- yet Axe is Unilever who have hundreds of family focused brands. Including things like Dove with their positive-image focused "True Beauty" campaign.

    Is it just that Unilever is more of a low profile brand? Maybe Pepsi needs a holding company with a different name.

  • Report this Comment On October 15, 2009, at 1:28 PM, Phillip420 wrote:

    If Tampax did something like this for women, nobody would say a word.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2009, at 3:09 PM, militauro wrote:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, putting rules on different businesses is playing with their innovation. I don't think PepsiCo went too far, it's not like the Cap'n Crunch eating kids will download the app and have their mothers boycotting.

    I think companies should be allowed to innovate where they see fit. Some companies will fail, some will succeed. Those that succeed will be rewarded for their risk and at some point it'll be considered a genius move.

    I think this article looks into this small, useless app a bit too much.

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