The Infamous Cola Wars

The storied rivalry between Coke and Pepsi has served as the precedent for how to effectively position a brand. This legendary rivalry began over a century ago and has yet to lose its fizz. In this blog, I will discuss the marketing campaigns and product development of each brand throughout the years.


Market Campaigns

In the early 1970s, PepsiCo launched two effective marketing campaigns: Pepsi Generation (1970) and the Pepsi Challenge (1974). Before discussing the Pepsi Generation campaign, it is important to note that Pepsi geared their marketing towards promoting family consumption through intermediaries like supermarkets. Moreover, during this specific time in history, numerous families were joined together by televisions and Pepsi effectively used this knowledge to their advantage. The Pepsi Generation commercial provided a visual of family and friends gathered at an outdoor social event enjoying bottles of Pepsi. In 1974, Pepsi leveraged the power of television once more with the Pepsi Challenge – a blind taste test where regular people were asked to state their preference between Coke and Pepsi. More than 50% of tasters preferred Pepsi over Coke in each taste test. As a rebuttal to the results of the tastes broadcasted nationwide, Coca-Cola countered by simply reducing the costs of their drinks.


Product Development

Rewinding to the 1960s, both Coke and Pepsi aggressively expanded their product lines thus providing consumers with new beverage alternatives. From 1960-1963, Coke launched Fanta, Sprite, and Cola Tab. Taking a more reactive approach, Pepsi responded by launching Teem, Mountain Dew, and Diet Pepsi to remain competitive and to prevent the loss of any valuable market share. Fast-forwarding to the 1980s and we see Coke once again taking a proactive approach in expanding their product line. During this decade, Cherry Coke and caffeine free Coke were introduced. On the defensive, Pepsi responded by developing caffeine free Pepsi much later in 1987.


And the Winner Is…

This ongoing rivalry has yet to lose its fizz as the two brands continue to battle it out. Today, Coke is enjoying a much larger market share over its largest competitor. This honestly comes to no surprise to me as you will never guess how many times I’ve heard the phrase “is Pepsi, ok” when Coke is not offered at an establishment. Ultimately, this storied feud can be narrowed down to individual preference. I’ve personally made it a goal to cut down my consumption of carbonated soft drinks, but if given the choice between Coke and Pepsi, I am choosing an ice cold Coke every time.


by: Dezmond Nation

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