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Pepsi's "Middle Finger" CFO To Become CEO

Ordinarily the news that PepsiCo Chief Financial Officer and president Indra Nooyi will become the company's new CEO in October would hardly merit a mention here, but Nooyi was blogosphere fodder last year with a commencement address Columbia University. Nooyi is the Pepsi executive who ignited a bit of a blogstorm in 2005 by referring the the US as giving the "middle finger" to the rest of the world.

Here's the interesting portions of her May 15, 2005 commencement address at Columbia Business School Graduation [PDF]:

This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War I.

However, if used inappropriately - just like the U.S. itself -- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, I suspect you're hoping that I'll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I'm not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor - I think I'll pass.

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. - the long middle finger - must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand ... not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. - the middle finger - sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand - giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers - but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

...So, remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you're giving a hand - not the finger. You will help your country, your company, and yourself, more than you will ever know.

Nooyi's "clarification" is gone from the Pepsi site, but as I recall she maintained that her analogy was misconstrued...

Pepsi President Gives MBA Grads The Finger - [Wizbang]


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» Maneuver Marketing Communique linked with THE PROBLEM WITH INDRA NOOYI

Comments (20)

I'm thirsty. Think I'll go ... (Below threshold)

I'm thirsty. Think I'll go get a Coke.

I got a twelve pack of Peps... (Below threshold)
Joe Bonforte:

I got a twelve pack of Pepsi One last night. I guess it's the last Pepsi product I'll be getting in a long, long while.

Kevin:Doesn't Nooy... (Below threshold)


Doesn't Nooyi also wear her wedding ring on here middle finger?

Kevin:Doesn't Nooy... (Below threshold)


Doesn't Nooyi also wear her wedding ring on her middle finger, just to show everyone she's a 'dominant'?

My translation of her speac... (Below threshold)

My translation of her speach was basically the US is suppose to do the world's heavy lifting, but otherwise STFU and STFD.

who the #$^E$ drinks Pepsi ... (Below threshold)

who the #$^E$ drinks Pepsi anywyay Taste like crap. If a restaurant only serves Pepsi I order water. My favorite mexican restauant just switched to Coke, now we will order a soft-drink, instead of drinking water

What is the issue you've go... (Below threshold)

What is the issue you've got with Nooyi here - that we should give the finger to other countries?

Kevin, Thanks, I tho... (Below threshold)

Thanks, I thought I recognized her name. Yup, a perfect reason to not buy any Pepsi products.

The news was just wild with the "news" of a woman CEO of a major corporation, yet they gave no background on this controversy.

Thank goodness for bloggers with long memories!

There's a short news piece ... (Below threshold)

There's a short news piece in the WSJ today which talks about Indra Nooyi and mentions a Pepsi "Corporate Diversity" function at which Harry Belafonte was a guest speaker. Harry Frikkin' Belafonte. That would be the same Harry Belafonte, I believe, who referred to GW as "the greatest terrorist in history", and who gives Fidel Castro a tongue bath whenever he gets the opportunity. I'm switching to Coke.

This falls in my "hard to b... (Below threshold)
USMC Pilot:

This falls in my "hard to believe category". It's hard to believe that anyone incapable of giving a better speech than that, is the CEO of a major corporation. Her analogy is stupid and doesn't make sense.

Is she really so dumb as to not realize that it is possible to not grovel at someone elses feet and also not disrespect them at the same time. Grownups, like mature democratic nations, are able to dissagree, and still maintain respect for one another. If I am bigger than you, I'm not giving you the finger just because I don't let you take my wallet.

Do you think Pepsi may need... (Below threshold)

Do you think Pepsi may need to lose some money to get deeper into the taxpayers pocket? There's a catch somewhere, always is. I hate the taste of Pepsi so don't buy it anyway. Taste like it has dirt or grit in it.

Retired USAF

Stop hating. I am very pro... (Below threshold)

Stop hating. I am very proud, as an Indian, that an Indian woman has made it to the top of a large American company. You go girl! lol

Alex: "stop hating. I am ve... (Below threshold)

Alex: "stop hating. I am very proud, as an Indian, that an Indian woman has made it to the top of a large American company."

As an American, I'm very proud, Alex, that anyone in this country can reach for the stars. Of course, the contrapositive is that any "group" you want to define will have its fair share of losers.

Is there some reason Americans of Indian dissent are immune to this? Ditch the lame identity politics perspective.

Why not just applaud a grea... (Below threshold)

Why not just applaud a great American success story, where an immigrant woman could become the CEO of a major US corporation and just leave it at that? I wish her all the success in the world.

congrats.dont think indian ... (Below threshold)

congrats.dont think indian or american or man or woman.indra deserves it.u can also try for that job or a better job or u can start your own business or u can do whatever u like.leave indra.dont go after indra.

Congrats, Indra ! You are g... (Below threshold)
Philip McGregor:

Congrats, Indra ! You are great! I tasted Pepsi before. Indra is a reason for me to get more packs now. Her analogy of the finger was very relevant and intelligent comparison. Go Girl! You make us all Americans proud.

I think her analogy is quit... (Below threshold)

I think her analogy is quite clear as to how america and americans as a nation should behave with their corportate and political counterparts. If you are perceived as someone giving 'middle finger' you are not going anywhere isnt it as opposed to giving your hand... I think she gave the analogy to shape up our perception, in a way, it is applicable to other countries and their people also, it also shows that, she being an american resident (or even citizen) cares more about america and americans as a whole.

Wow. Attack of the barely ... (Below threshold)

Wow. Attack of the barely litterate sock puppets.

The replies here prove t... (Below threshold)
Milind (India):

The replies here prove that
1) Indra Nooyi is stupid.
2) the person/ group/company who took her to the helm is stupid.
3) if you don't like the remarks made by an employee (whatever position he/she is in) at a place other than the group; the products made by the group, which they may have been making,developing, improving for centuries; are bad. the same toungue starts tasting it bad.
4) if any wise asian person tells american students (who are willing to know it, because in the changing world situation, he/she may have to work in/for other countries) how the other world perceives the US, and the students can change it with their efforts and attitude (which is in the benefit of the students); that very person and not the US become bad.

Are not you doing what she warned you not to?

PEPSI -the new UNcola hahah... (Below threshold)

PEPSI -the new UNcola hahah. On "the Giving the bird" Columbia speech, either Indra has no common sense or she is very very arrogant. Perhaps the board should recommend her transfer over to Marketing head of Pepsi India where she can grow Pepsi market share among those outside of the US who are not happy with current US foreign policy.






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