Pepsi is about to try once again to breath serious life into the deceased King of Pop's global image in a move that has left some marketing experts aghast, and others applauding.
The unexpected marketing announcement comes on the heels of a new, global partnership between Pepsi and the estate of Michael Jackson. Pepsi has lost global market share to rival Coke the past year and is eager to grab some back with what it bills as a 25th anniversary celebration of Jackson's mufti-platinum BAD album and tour.
Besides the one billion cans due to start rolling out in late May, the Pepsi promotion will include live events, iconic music and digital opportunities for fans to get special-edition merchandise.
"This is very macabre and seems totally over the top to me," says pop culture guru Watts Wacker. "This will be a very polarizing promotion. They'll get lots of buzz, but most of it will be negative."
On that note, there's agreement from consultant Jonathan Salem Baskin. "It's a stroke of utter and complete stupidity," he says. "Can you imagine Whitney Houston being on a can of pop?"
But other image experts say the move is brilliant. "People today remember the young Jackson" says image consultant Laura Ries. "A dead Michael Jackson is effective, a live Michael Jackson would not have been because of all the negativity."
While Jackson's passing was less than two years ago, for Millennials, who love Jackson, there is a concept in play called "accelerated nostalgia," says youth marketing consultant Jake Katz. Things are evolving from "current" to "classic" much faster than for previous generations because of social media's rapid flow of information, he says.
Certainly, Jackson has a long -- if not shaky -- history with Pepsi. He starred in his first Pepsi campaign in 1983. One year later, while filming a Pepsi spot, Jackson's hair caught fire in a pyrotechnics accident.
"The risk is the sub-plot that Michael Jackson's demise began when he got hurt on the Pepsi shoot," says youth consultant Marian Salzman. "So they need to have the thick skin to weather this." Even then, Salzman says, "he could be a great bridge between Pepsi past and Pepsi future."
Already, there is nostalgia for Jackson, says Frank Cooper, Pepsi's chief marketing officer, global consumer engagement. "Michael Jackson will always be the King of Pop."