College Kid vs. Corporate Giant: A Lesson in Brand Protection

How to Protect Your Brand

If you’re not sold on the importance of making sure your ads and influencer generated content are not deceptive or misleading, check out the docuseries on Netflix – Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?. 

Alternatively, just keep reading this to get the gist.

The docuseries covers the story of how a 21 year old student from Washington sparked a national media sensation and multi-year lawsuit because of the lack of a disclaimer in a Pepsi ad.

In the mid 1990’s, in the peak of the Cola wars era, PepsiCo launched a campaign with one goal- get people to buy more Pepsi. The campaign centered around a “Pepsi-Points” system, where consumers could collect “points” from Pepsi labels and trade them in for Pepsi merch, such as Pepsi branded t-shirts and leather jackets.

One commercial for the campaign showed an AV-8 Harrier II Jet that could be acquired for 7 million Pepsi points.

Obviously, a joke, right? Well, not exactly. 

The commercial didn’t include any fine print or disclaimers, so John Leonard, the 21 year old student, tried to take Pepsi up on their “offer”. Leonard acquired the 7 million pepsi points with the help of a few investors but Pepsi denied the request for the Harrier jet, claiming that the commercial was a joke. 

Pepsi offered Leonard a settlement of $750,000 that Leonard refused.

Lawsuits were filed. 

The media had a heyday. 

And ultimately, after a long legal battle, a New York court ruled in favor of PepsiCo and Leonard never got the jet.

What is the lesson here? If you’re not keen on potentially shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect your brand in court, you might want to take your advertising disclaimers – and disclosures – seriously. 

Here are our top 2 tips to doing just that.

#1 – Choose a disclosure that clearly shows a financial relationship between brand and influencer. 

When you’re drafting up talking points and mulling over creative strategies, it’s important to decide early on what kind of disclosure resonates most with your brand – and stick to it for all your influencer content.

Our favorites at InfluenceLogic are:

Sponsored – The classic. The tried, and true. The gold standard. It’s our #1 choice for disclosures.

Partner – The edgy little brother of sponsored. This disclosure is not ambiguous but at the same time leaves a little to the imagination. To keep things safe we prefer to tack on the brand name, for example, #MintPartner.

#2 – Don’t get carried away with your claims.

We have no doubt that your brand/service/product is amazing- you’re helping people and changing lives. When it comes to creating content, definitely showcase the best case scenarios and share the customers that have experienced life changing results – just keep in mind, the less typical the results are that you’re sharing, the more careful you need to be in how you talk about them.

Are you a social media manager or brand manager interested in working with influencers but not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed at all the technical aspects of launching an influencer program? We’d love to help. Reach out with any questions to

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