Pepsi answers a PR nightmare with a PR nightmare for their popular Mountain Dew soda. In a recent lawsuit, Pepsi denies responsibility for a mouse getting into a can of their soda, backing it up with an expert witness that says if a mouse did get in the soda it would’ve dissolved by the time of consumption.
Ronald Ball, a man who claims to have encountered a mouse in his Mountain Dew in 2009 is currently suing Pepsi for $50,000. In an effort to refute the accusation Pepsi’s lawyers released a statement citing expert testimony that:
“The mouse would have dissolved in the soda had it been in the can from the time of its bottling until the day the plaintiff drank it.” – Madison County Record
So it seems that Pepsi’s legal and communication teams had a tough decision to make. Would it be more detrimental to the company to admit the possibility of a mouse becoming trapped in can and surrendering the $50K, or that Mountain Dew can and will dissolve that very same mouse from the time of bottling to consumption.
“This seems like a winning-the-battle-while-surrendering-the-war kind of strategy that hinges on the argument that Pepsi’s product is essentially a can of bright green/yellow battery acid.” – The Atlantic Wire
Either way this story was spun, Pepsi’s PR team was going have their hands full trying to salvage the reputation of the company. Legally, Pepsi might come out of this unscathed, but from a PR perspective there is a long road ahead.
Interestingly enough, it seems like Pepsi never actually denied that a mouse could get into a can of Mountain Dew, or provided insight as to how they would avoid this in the future. They merely stated that if one did find its way into a can, the consumer would never know.
Sometimes there is just no-good way to handle a PR Nightmare, however taking ownership of an issue and letting your customers know you are working towards a solution can go a long way. Everyone makes mistakes, however how we communicate what we’ve learned from these mistakes and what they mean for the future can make all the difference.