Live for the Healthy Now, Pepsi

By Mark J. Harris

In 2012, Pepsi kicked off a global “Live for Now” campaign, which promoted the idea of living “each moment to the fullest” and “embrac[ing] the ‘now’” particularly as it related to pop culture. In addition to TV, radio, and outdoor advertising, it promoted its new “Pepsi Pulse” digital and social media platform to connect with users and their experiences on-the-go. Last month, Pepsi furthered this campaign with a “Global Fashion Capsule Collection” – branding the “Live for Now” mantra on clothing and accessories.

The #YOLO (“you only live once”) generation will almost certainly eat this up, but Living for Now has the potential for sending the message that one should make decisions made “in the now” without worrying about future consequences. This sort of thinking has deleterious effects, leading to everything from rising credit card debt to unhealthy diet or lifestyle behaviors.

Behavioral economists call this phenomenon hyperbolic discounting. In brief, this means that the future value of one action is seen as less valuable than the short-term (more immediate) reward of another action. In practice, this means that the easier (and often more hedonistic) option of short-term reward will outweigh long-term goals.

This “Live for Now” mentality stands in opposition to the goals and essential functions of public health and medicine. Unhealthy behaviors in the short-term – especially as they relate to diet, physical or sexual activity, and drug use – can lead to potentially irreversible long-term effects. One would hope that as a global company that recognizes the importance of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and as a company whose stated Performance With Purpose goals include “promoting healthy lifestyles,” PepsiCo would understand the inherent disconnect between their words and their actions.

I would however applaud PepsiCo for incorporating healthy and sustainable images in their campaigns and using their expansive influence to promote a more mindful philosophy such as Living for the Healthy Now.

Pepsi June2014 hyperbolic-discount

Click to enlarge image. Source:

Mark J. Harris is a dual MD/MPH student at Columbia University. You can follow his thoughts on Twitter at @MarkMDMPH, and the Vitality Institute at @VitalityInst.


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