Edward Boyd, the advertising guru who made Pepsi-Cola a household name in black homes

Stephen Nartey April 10, 2023
Edward Boyd/Photo credit: Karina Scott on Twitter

In the 1960s, the black market was largely ignored by most national corporations. However, Edward Francis Boyd, a pioneering black advertiser, played a key role in helping Pepsi-Cola penetrate this market. He capitalized on the privileged position he had at Pepsi-Cola to fight the systemic racism and stereotypical frames black consumers were placed in.

Employed by Pepsi-Cola in 1947, he noticed that most of the national corporations had sidelined the African American market, and began using ads that portrayed blacks as middle-class fun-loving individuals in his attempt to penetrate the market.

When he began making inroads, he jumped on using testimonials by using celebrated black figures and diplomats, such as Ralph Bunche. Edward’s expertise in marketing and advertising proved invaluable to Pepsi as he helped the company establish a strong presence in the black community. He recognized the potential of this market and worked tirelessly to develop strategies to connect with consumers.

His efforts began paying off as Pepsi quickly became a popular choice among black consumers. His innovative advertising campaigns, which featured black models and celebrities, resonated with the community and helped to establish Pepsi as a brand that understood and valued their unique perspective, the New York Times reported.

He was the first to introduce niche advertising by using point-of-purchase displayed in underrepresented markets, and used celebrities like Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton to have them mention Pepsi-Cola on stage. His models created avenues for blacks to make them feel integrated, even in segregated communities. He leveraged Coke’s racist policies to the advantage of Pepsi-Cola.

He called Coke out for not employing African Americans; to demonstrate Pepsi-Cola’s inclusive policy, he worked with an all-black sales team to execute his strategy. In every area Edward targeted with his marketing campaign, Pepsi’s sales shot up, and for the first time, Pepsi sold more than Coke in Chicago as a result of its marketing blitz.

Edward Francis Boyd was born on June 27, 1914, and grew up in Riverside, California. Despite being a barber’s son, he aspired to get to higher heights on the academic ladder. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and like any graduate, when he faced post-graduate job search blues, he took up acting roles using his talent for singing and dancing.

Though he never liked the stereotypical black roles he was given, he accepted them just to make ends meet. He worked temporarily for the Screen Actors Guild and the government housing programs before a short stint with the civil rights group, the National Urban League, that advocated improved economic conditions for African Americans.

Despite facing significant challenges and resistance from some quarters, he remained committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in advertising. His groundbreaking work helped to pave the way for future generations of black advertisers and marketers. Edward’s legacy serves as a reminder of the power of advertising to drive social change and create a more equitable society.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 10, 2023


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