Misinterpretation of Pepsi’s pro-LGBT campaign in Latin America (even homophobic people liked it)

Pedro Luis Pacheco
4 min readJul 8, 2023

“Los géneros son para la música no para las personas”, Pepsi launched that campaign in Latin America supporting the LGBT community, but its message was so confusing and ambiguous that it even led homophobic people to support the campaign.

PERCEPTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN LATIN AMERICA

One of the most relevant social struggles of this century has undoubtedly been that of the LGBT community, which has sought to grant rights to same-sex couples, such as marriage and adoption, and in the same way promote tolerance, respect, and, above all, love.

In many countries, this pro-LGBT struggle has become a challenge because it contradicts laws, traditions, cultures, and religions. In the case of Latin American countries, the simple idea of a same-sex couple goes against the Christian culture of a large part of the population.

According to different surveys, the population of Latin America identified as Christian is over 80%, and it is worth noting that Latin American Christianity is still quite conservative and fundamentalist, unlike European Christianity.

This introduction is important to understand why many Latin American people are reluctant to support pro-gay campaigns.

LGBT MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

More and more companies are supporting the LGBTIQ+ community, which is undoubtedly a great marketing strategy because companies give an image of empathy and solidarity by supporting certain causes.

Pepsi has always been an astute and proactive brand when it comes to advertising, and if its competitor Coca-Cola had already launched multiple LGBT campaigns, they couldn’t be left behind. They joined the LGBT support and, among other things, launched cans for sale with the rainbow flag, the main symbol of gay pride.

However, with a campaign carried out only in Hispanic countries, Pepsi generated great controversy because the message was ambiguous and allowed both progressives and conservatives to support (or hate) it.

THE CAMPAIGN: “LOS GÉNEROS SON PARA LA MÚSICA NO PARA LAS PERSONAS”

With that simple label, Pepsi sparked a debate on social media about whether it was a “woke” or “anti-LGBT” message.

The word ‘género’ in Spanish is used to describe both musical genres and gender (male, female, etc.), so the Pepsi label says “The géneros (genders/genres) are for music, not for people”.

The problem with this message is that it was very confusing; both sides of the cultural border (progressive and conservative) claimed it as their own.

On the one hand, progressives understood what Pepsi’s intention was; they knew that the beverage brand was supporting sexual diversity and the LGBT community. The message promotes the idea that people should not be labeled based on their gender and that music, on the other hand, can be labeled based on the musical genre it represents.

On the other hand, conservatives interpreted it as an act of courage by Pepsi to rebel against a woke culture that actively promotes the LGBT community in all kinds of campaigns. They thought the message meant there are no genders, only two sexes: man and woman. Obviously, they made a lot of memes, making the typical joke of “Now I like Pepsi more; goodbye Coca-Cola.”

This ambiguous campaign made many people believe that Pepsi was against the LGBT community, which does not make much sense if you investigate other campaigns that Pepsi has done in Pride Month.

Years have passed since the launch of this campaign (there is no exact date, but it is believed to have been launched around 2020), and to this day, many people share this message on social networks thinking that this campaign was a rebellion against the LGBT community.

WAS THE “MISUNDERSTANDING” INTENTIONAL?

As mentioned at the beginning, Pepsi has been a very astute brand when it comes to generating high-impact advertising.

There is no evidence that Pepsi had double intentions when launching this campaign. It seems that they just wanted to give an LGBT support message, and people misinterpreted it. But it is not risky to think that they were looking to generate this ambiguity to please both progressives and conservatives, or perhaps to generate debate and make the campaign go viral.

The only thing that remains clear is that the company’s creative team got it right once again because everyone has been talking about the brand on social media thanks to this controversial message.

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