The advertisement featured a smiling black mother and her handsome, 7-year-old son. She holds a six-pack of Pepsi-Cola in her hand, lovingly...
LOS ANGELES — The advertisement featured a smiling black mother and her handsome, 7-year-old son. She holds a six-pack of Pepsi-Cola in her hand, lovingly. He reaches for a bottle.
The message was simple, its poignancy understood only in the context of America’s troubled history of race relations.
“We’d been caricatured and stereotyped,” said Edward Boyd, who came up with the idea for the ad campaign. “The advertisement represented us as normal Americans.”
It was 1947. In a bold move, Pepsi-Cola hired Mr. Boyd and a team of highly educated black salesmen to help the company capture the black dollar in its war with Coca-Cola.
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A cornerstone of their effort was the ad campaign, which also profiled “Leaders in Their Fields” such as future Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, and stylishly dressed, well-to-do families in others, and black university students. By offering black America more respect and attention than any major corporation, Boyd and his team achieved their goal of driving up Pepsi’s sales, pioneered what now is known as niche or target marketing, and helped break the color barrier in corporate America.
Mr. Boyd died Monday in Los Angeles from complications of a stroke he suffered in March. He was 92.
In January, his story received national attention with the release of the book “The Real Pepsi Challenge: The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business,” by Stephanie Capparell, an editor at The Wall Street Journal.
“Jackie Robinson may have made more headlines, but what Ed did — integrating the managerial ranks of corporate America — was equally groundbreaking,” Donald Kendall, retired chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, said in a statement.
Hired as an assistant sales manager, Mr. Boyd had wide-ranging responsibility. He created the concept for the ad campaign, determined who and what would appear, and decided to use photos of models for some ads. The boy reaching for a bottle of Pepsi was a very young Ron Brown, who went on to become Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration. Another series featured top students at black universities drinking Pepsi. There was also a series drawn by Jay Jackson, a black cartoonist noted for his satirical .
Racism was a reality that Mr. Boyd and his 12-man team encountered regularly. The salesmen rode on segregated trains and were refused service at white-owned hotels. They faced threats by the Ku Klux Klan and insults from some Pepsi colleagues.
Although the marketing campaign proved successful, a new company president disbanded the team and let Mr. Boyd go. But history had been made.
Born in Riverside on June 27, 1914, he grew up in a solid, middle-class family. After graduating from high school in 1932, Mr. Boyd, a gifted singer, trained at a local opera company. His dream was to become a diplomat, but after earning a degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1938, he saw few avenues open to him for realizing that goal.
After a brief acting career, Mr. Boyd worked for a federal war-housing program, then found work at the Civil Service Commission in San Francisco, becoming the first black professional to work there, according to a biography released by his family. He was a housing specialist with the National Urban League when Pepsi hired him.
After his career with Pepsi, Mr. Boyd traveled to Egypt and Gaza to head food-relief missions, and work with the Society of Ethical Culture in New York, offering leadership training to high-school students. Years after retiring in 1981, he broke new ground again, this time as a pioneer in the burgeoning business of alpaca farming in Sullivan County, in New York.
Mr. Boyd is survived by his wife, the former Edith Jones; daughter Rebecca Boyd-Driver of New York; and sons Timothy of Chicago, Brandon of New York and Edward Jr. of Boulder, Colo.