Soft Drink Companies Profited From Black Culture's Cool Factor For Decades

vintage pepsi cans
Briona Lamback
May 17, 2023

For years, Black models graced Pepi’s ads and commercials. The company may have seemed progressive, but it was a capitalist front to win over soda lovers, and they used a “Negro marketing” department to do it.

In the 1960s, Pepsi was considered a hip drink, and a considerable part of its allure was that it used our people in its marketing. But this wasn’t some diversity and inclusion campaign; it was a response to Coca-Cola, the soda made for whites.

Coke spent the 30s and 40s intentionally aligning themselves with anti-Blackness.  In response, Pepsi used us as a marketing ploy to compete. Sales reps traveled to the Jim Crow South, working grueling seven-day schedules and being underpaid to sell Pepsi in our communities. Duke Ellington was even a company spokesperson. 

There’s a long history of brands performing allyship by exploiting the natural “cool” we exude to sell their products.

While sometimes profitable for our people, we must remember that capitalism doesn’t love any of us. It’s anti-Black at the core. These days, plenty of Black-owned beverage brands deserve our coins much more.

Because corporations need us, it is always worth considering a company’s history and track record before supporting them.

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