Home > advertising, communication, fashion > #2 – Diet Pepsi ‘Skinny’ Can Controversy

#2 – Diet Pepsi ‘Skinny’ Can Controversy

Stereotyping is defined as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Advertisements usually features stereotypes in it, to allow their target audience to be able to relate with the character. In this case, it is Pepsi’s new Diet Pepsi Skinny Can, released during Fashion Week in New York.


screen shot from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/diet-pepsi-skinny-can-sti_n_822046.html

Why the whole controversy behind this new can design? It is using stereotype and perception to sell the product, in which fashion is related to being skinny and that being skinny is beautiful. So what do you think is the main reason for stereotyping?

Perception is defined as the process of selecting, organizing and interpreting information to give personal meaning to the communication we receive. Ultimately perception is about how make sense of the information we received.

When forming perception, we go through the process of selection – how we single out information in our environment for processing. We select information based on frequency (quantity), contrast (how a certain stimuli stands out because it is different), intensity (the magnitude of a certain stimuli) and novel stimuli (things that are new to us).

Our selection process is also influenced from various sources such as mass media, environment, individual characteristics (e.g. past experiences, cultural background etc), psychological state and social network.

In my opinion, influences of selection and the qualities of selection work hand in hand. Take for example; a girl being constantly exposed to media portrayal of beauty as being skinny mixed with the environment that stresses on outer appearance as beauty. This affects her selection of what beauty is all about. With inaccurate selection of information, it ultimately affects how she organized and interprets the information. Inevitably, it leads to the distortion of perception of beauty.

The mainstream media has the power to affect people’s perception. The media is a tool that can be used to communicate from one person to many. It is up to how a person makes sense of the information. However, with this distortion of perception being used to sell a product, it is delivering the wrong message of what beauty is, not only to the youths who are so easily influenced, but also to the mass.

I think the main problem when it comes to perception, is selection of information. We tend to avoid certain stimuli (selective exposure), filter of unwanted stimuli (selective attention) and/or we only store information we have processed (selective retention). Distortion of perception leads to the existence of stereotyping.

The best way to improve our perception is to keep an open mind when selecting information and distinguish facts from inferences. Most importantly, be prepared to change our perception.

When it all comes down to it, do you really think it is the media’s fault for projecting beauty as being skinny, or do you think it is the natural characteristic in human nature to see what is pleasing to the eyes?

  1. milollita
    February 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Humans like pretty things but then again, the definition of ‘pretty’ or beautiful is shaped by society and in modern society, media has a definite effect on people’s perception.

    For example, maybe a 150 years ago, a hefty woman was seen as beautiful because it meant she ate well and lead a very comfortable life, while a thin woman was perceived as poor. :C

    But I don’t think it’s just the media. There are all sorts of reasons: peer pressure, or even parents teaching their kids since young…

    All in all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion of beautiful but it’s sad that majority of people agree to the same type of beauty~


    (Sue, idk what I’m talking about anymore :P)

  2. February 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Oh, the whole thin-is-beautiful controversy – which one of us here isn’t guilty of that eh? Thinking twice on having that bar of chocolate? We’ve all been there, done that.

    In my honest opinion regarding the whole skinny debacle, it is only human to be… jealous. On the risk of sounding borderline silly, I personally can’t help but to observe how some people comment bitterly on others’ “small boobs” and “lack of curves”. Please, deep inside every one of us lies a perception of female beauty perfection resembling Megan Fox/Jessica Alba by the mere fact that it is our society and upbringing that has moulded our mindsets this way, to have seemingly given a “sick twist” in our view of superficial beauty.

    Media is no doubt one of the most powerful sources of influence in this world where hardly anybody is able to live without, voluntarily or not. Regarding Pepsi’s new can design? We can only blame ourselves for being blind consumerists – craving for whats the newest and hippest possible.

    In fact, I think Pepsi is quite the genius to have invoked this debate just by simply tweaking its design: media coverage, the exact tool they need to sell their product. Perhaps we shouldn’t take it so personally, afterall its only business, oui?

  3. wensssy
    February 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I think the Pepsi can design is so contradicting. Pepsi is like a fattening drink and yet their can is designed to be slim?!
    Although it is not totally the fault of the media, they do have some part to play in this too. Media showing programmes like Miss Universe as well as various fashion runway shows somehow shows the idea that skinny equals to pretty. So in this case actually critics cannot blame Pepsi for coming up with this can design since it really is what the majority perceives as pretty. You cannot expect Pepsi to come up with a fatter version of the can and say that it is for the celebration of the fashion week.
    I think Pepsi should have just scraped the whole idea of having a different can design.

  4. shaz
    March 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

    I don’t really think anyone is at fault for projecting beauty as being skinny. I would say both humans and media play a part in this.

    It is human nature to see what’s pleasing to the eyes. It’s a stereotypical thinking that every human who’s skinny is beautiful whereas every human who are fat are ugly and i doubt this will ever change.

    Although the media has the power to change the mindset of the people but they are not making a good use of it with such advertisement and shows like Miss Universe(as mentioned by wensssy).

  5. Jeannette
    March 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I feel that there is too much controversy for just one small can. Looking at a design angle, creating a brand new structure of the can that not only would appeal to the masses and still retain the similarities of the old product is limiting. If body image was not an issue, if the drink was not Pepsi (or drinks of a similar type), if the concept of the design was not ‘skinny’, it would just be another can of drink. With the media and many of the audiences sensitive to the word ‘skinny’, relating it to body-image issues, could this just be one example of people over thinking the concept? They probably wanted to enhance the ‘diet’ part of the Pepsi, showing that it contains lesser calories and therefore, ‘skinnier’. This is just my opinion. 🙂

  6. April 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I do think that it was the way media portrayed beauty, which led to how the society perceives it to be. The media decides what the public sees and how it is portrayed. Women are predominately portrayed in the media as thin and without imperfections. In our everyday lives, we are exposed to different forms of media such as bill boards, magazine covers, and television commercials showing thin women which are impossible to miss. As a result, plastic surgery, drastic dieting, low self-esteem, negative body image and disordered eating are all part of what women may resort to.

  7. April 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Wow I can’t help but wonder if Pepsi was purposely being stupid in releasing this new design. How can they not realize that it will spark off the old “thin is beautiful’ debate? Or maybe they intended for that to happen so that they can sell more cans, in which case, Pepsi’s a genius.

    Honestly, I’m kind of tired of this whole issue because it has been around for so long. You would think with the amount of knowledge we have of the health concerns of being too skinny like succumbing to eating disorders, people would know how to reject the portrayal of what’s “beautiful” by the media. I think that both sides are too blame for this perception that being thin equates to beauty. The media continuously shoves our noses with images of skinny models and celebrities while the public happily lap it up.

  8. April 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    The media showed how an attractive woman with “desirable” physical characteristic should be, included being thin, long-legged, slim-hipped, and large-breasted. Because of the wide gap between what is beautiful in the eyes of the media what is the reality flourishes a market of beauty and self-improvement products ranging from make-up to plastic surgery, and in this case, we have the SKINNY PEPSI.
    The unattractive body that does not conform to be close to the marketed norm becomes a thing to be hated.
    All thanks to the media!

  9. Shawn
    April 10, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Great insight. Throughout the course of time, the perceptions of beauty has always been based on what SOCIETY deems to be beautiful. In 15th century Europe, looking plump and round was considered the ‘in’ look for women back then, and skinny boney girls are always frowned upon and looked down, for they are perceived to be poor and unable to feed themselves. How times have changed! The media and the environment hugely influences our notion of looking good. Seemingly perfect models now create the standard for beauty. But how many girls who wish to look like these models are truly aware that digital editing has been done to allow them to look stunning?

  10. April 17, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Actually, I feel that Pepsi was quite innovative (in the sick sense) in coming up with a slim can for their Diet Pepsi. Yes, perhaps they are reinforcing the belief that thin is beautiful. However, should Pepsi shoulder 100% of the blame for such a marketing strategy? I think it would be rather unfair to do so. Critics criticize Pepsi for such a strategy but why are they not doing anything to stop the influx of skinny models of the fashion industry? If we read fashion magazines and think that the skinny models look so good in the clothes and aspire towards that figure, how can we blame Pepsi for wanting to use this weakness to market their Diet Pepsi? In addition, how many people drink diet coke because it’s healthier? A handful maybe? But cynical as I may sound, I feel that they are drinking diet coke because they don’t want to feel fat from drinking normal coke yet they like how coke tastes so they drink the diet version of coke. Hence, if you’re going to drink Diet Pepsi to feel thin, why should the shape of the can affect you?

  11. April 17, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Haha this actually reminds me of this German magazine, Brigitte which stated that they are sick of working with ultra skinny models (declaring that they not going to work with these models anymore), and they want “real women” instead. The editor in chief added that he was tired of photo-shopping these skinny models to fatten them up and making them look normal. Morbid humor, but it tells us a lot of how the world has changed.


  12. Ayu
    April 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I think Pepsi is really clever releasing this pepsi ‘skinny’ can in time for fashion week. They are really able to milk on the whole ‘skinny’ controversy.

    I think the media is at fault for projecting beauty as being skinny. On television, movies, advertisements, models and celebrities are often portrayed as skinny. We desire to mimic them thus thinking skinny is beautiful. Men too are affected when men are portrayed as muscular and tall. I think the media adds to the already distorted perception of beauty.

  13. Liza
    April 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Pepsi is clearly using controversy to sell their products. Although I don’t agree with their methods, I think this is a good business move.

    I don’t think the media is at fault for projecting skinny is beautiful. The society already has this mindset, so the media is just reiterating what the society thinks. Also, the advertisements usually feature skinny models because this is what people want to see, going the extra mile to appeal to the mass.

  14. Cassandra
    April 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I think reading this article, it reminded me of Dove real women campaign where women of all ages, size, race etc are featured. I think the media is just showing what society prefer to see, skinny women, which is why the dove campaign got so much publicity since it went against the norm.

    I don’t think the media is wrong, they are just showing what the public want to see and perceive beauty to be.

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