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Urban Legends

Pepsi Pledge

The Legend

Found on the Internet, May 2002

Pepsi has a new patriotic can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Building and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. But Pepsi forgot two little words on the pledge, "Under God." Pepsi said they did not want to offend anyone.

Oh, sure. Just like their commercials never offend anyone (twice as much for a nickel my ass!)

Well, let's take them at their word and not offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate offices. Our money has "under God" on it, so let's not buy any Pepsi and not give them any of that "offensive" money until we can get Congress to take "under God" off of our cash! That'll show them!

Or even better, let's spread the word that we won't buy Pepsi again until every single can has the word "under God" on it! We want those words to be read by anyone who buys a can of Pepsi! Stamp it on your cans, on your hands - tattoo it on your forehead! Tell these companies that we won't allow them to do any trade of any kind unless they show the name of God!


Behind the Legend

This whole tirade, while technically based on the truth, is really just a big misunderstanding. Soon after the events of September 11, Pepsi put out a series of soda cans with the words "To the United States of America" on it over a photo of one of a number of famous American landmarks. True, these words are part of the Pledge of Allegiance, and true they do not have the part of the pledge that mentions God, but it is not clear that Pepsi was specifically avoiding the reference to the deity.

Said a Pepsi spokesperson, "We intended these cans as symbolic 'gifts' to the country during a time of national mourning. We were not intentionally mentioning the Pledge of Allegiance, but addressing our 'gift.' It is true that we have never printed the word 'God' on one of our beverage containers, and we would never do so, largely because corporate policy precludes implied product endorsements by non-mascot imaginary characters, and I think that these days pretty much every intelligent American realizes that God is nothing but a ridiculous fantasy, much like Santa Claus (who is still used in advertising by a certain other cola vendor, by the way). Really, if people would just get over this whole religion thing, problems like these would never come up."

This controversy brings to mind several past brouhahas over messages on products. For example:

  • M&Ms candies: Sued first by the legal firm of Madison and Merkaw for illegally using their name in abbreviated form without permission, and then by rap singer Eminem for unfair competition.
  • The United Milk Advisory Board sued by the California Dairy Workers Union because the advertising phrase "Got Milk" was an seen as an excerpt from a recent union workers contract published without reference to guaranteed employee benefits.
  • Nike sued by Nevada's famous Chicken Ranch brothel over the phrase "Just do it" which was interpreted as illegally quoting from the latter business's publicly displayed code of conduct. Nike was also sued by Peggy Fleming because the Nike logo swash looked just a little too much like the blade of her ice skate.

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