Do you remember the digital campaign Pepsi MAX and Jeff Gordon did last year? Where Jeff tested a car, and drove like a bat out of hell while the sales guy had probably peed his pants? If you don’t remember it, here’s the video:

This video was a viral sensation a year ago, and racked up over 41 million views on Youtube, in 11 months. HUGE success for Pepsi MAX, as all anyone could talk about on social networks was how hilarious that sales person’s reaction was. Pepsi MAX and Jeff Gordon’s brand awareness went up, for sure.

The Influencer That Called Pepsi Out

But in the midst of all of this, there was one person in particular that created more ruckus than anyone else online, and that would be Travis Okulski. As soon as Travis saw the video, he called it fake. He gave a step-by-step analysis of why the ad was a phony. He completely disregarded the fact that despite the fake-ness of the ad, it was still very entertaining to watch, and put Pepsi MAX in a positive spotlight. NOPE! Travis wanted to focus on the negative aspects of the campaign.

For a brand like Pepsi MAX, this is definitely not fun.

Why Influencers Are Scary To Brands

The commentary Travis provided is precisely why brand marketers are terrified of working with influencers. We encounter this attitude from marketers all the time at InNetwork. “What if an influencer writes negatively about us?” – a common question we get during our qualifying process.

Well, here’s an example of an influencer that wrote negatively about the campaign. He created enough ruckus that people now knew that the ad was fake, and it took away some of that good feeling people were getting. Mind you, he didn’t reach everyone that watched the video, but he did spark negative discussions where over 240,000 people read his article – and this doesn’t include the other commentary on other websites that was sparked from Travis’ post.

So as a company like Pepsi, what do you do? How do you deal with a negative influencer?

Working With Influencers To Turn Negative Sentiment into Positive Sentiment

A lot of brands would have left the situation alone. They would have just let it dry out, wait around, not aggravate the influencer, and hope nothing comes of it. But Pepsi MAX didn’t do this… OH NO THEY DIDN’T!

I saw a report on ADWEEK yesterday about how Pepsi MAX responded. They followed up with Travis… but not how you would expect. Watch this video:

Here’s an innovative, brilliant example of how a large brand worked with an influencer that was spreading negative sentiment about them, and completely turned the sentiment around. Pepsi MAX and Jeff Gordon got revenge on Travis Okulski in the most brilliant way possible – make him experience what he so blatantly criticized in the first place, and see if he will change his mind about Pepsi MAX and Jeff Gordon.

You can read Travis’ whole story here. His follow-up article already has more page views than the first, negative one :)

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Don’t Be Scared Of Negative Influencers

If someone is spreading negative content about your brand, don’t ignore them. Don’t treat them like they’re the enemy. The beauty of digital marketing, content marketing, and influence marketing is that you can turn everything around by doing something amazing – and if that person happens to have an audience, that amazing experience can turn into some positive earned media for your brand.

Pepsi MAX took a risk. They planned a whole campaign around one single influencer that had negative sentiment towards an ad. They could have simply ignored it. But they didn’t.

And now, Pepsi MAX will get a ton of positive earned media from it. Kudos to you, Pepsi, and Peter Atencio for directing another brilliant ad, and coming up with an excellent influence marketing use-case!

What do you think of Pepsi MAX’ response? What do you think of the campaign? How else could Pepsi use influencers for their marketing strategies? Please leave a comment below!

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