Coca Cola vs Pepsi - The Hot War of your Cold Drinks

Created on 29 Jul 2021

Wraps up in 4 Min

Read by 6.4k people

Updated on 10 Aug 2022

Talk of brand wars, and you can’t miss this one!

Humanity has transitioned to mocktails & shakes, but deep down in a soft corner of the heart, the schooldays’ class bunk for a bottle of ‘cold drinks’ is something we still cherish, right? In fact, those days, we were hardly concerned about whether it was (Coca-Cola’s) Thumps Up or (Pepsi’s) Pepsi. All that mattered was the chill.

Not until celebrities started endorsing these products, as a result of which, people were divided. Either you “Taste The Thunder '' with a Thumps Up, or you “Socha nahi ji gaya, Pepsi thi pi gaya” ;-)

But then, amidst all these changing preferences, a lot was going on inside these companies. Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola were trying to be one-up with respect to their brands. It almost seems like they were making their brands not for the consumers but for competing against each other. Don’t believe us? Well, have a look -

Did you notice how every brand of Coca-Cola is similar to Pepsi's? This rivalry has not started now, it has been there for decades. So, let us decode this rivalry in this interesting piece.

Bellicose of Coca-Cola & Pepsi

Coca-Cola commenced its operations back in 1886 with the formula from a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia named John S. Pemberton. It was only a few years later, the first-ever 'Brad's Drink' was introduced in 1893 by a Californian pharmacist named Caleb Bradham, which in today's world is officially known as Pepsi.

By that time, Coca-Cola had already expedited its operations, had its first celebrity endorsement and was producing an overwhelming amount of its product, while on the other hand, Pepsi had just kicked off. Coca-Cola never stopped, they chose the route of aggressive advertising in which their ads featured top athletes and renowned artists and just went on with their full-fledged expansion.

How important is the brand icon?

The psychology of colours played a crucial role in this game of brand icons.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi carefully thought about their logo(s) and kept on tweaking them ponderously. The classic red, blue and white combination of Pepsi accompanied with its more comprehensive lettering was a move to make the most of patriotism which then dominated the United States of America in World War ll. 

On the other hand, with its sober flashy red backdrop along with the white lettering, Coca-Cola used this combination in all its advertisements to boost brand awareness and recognition.

Coca-Cola always had an edge over Pepsi because of its memorable and impactful advertisements. But Pepsi was not a sore loser, it came up with the advertising industry's first-ever 'jingle' in 1939, which now has more than a million copies of it placed in jukeboxes across the United States. Just like its Indian “oye bubbly oye hoye bubbly” song, people couldn’t get it off their minds!

How did advertising help increase the top-line?

Credibility is the true worth of any enterprise and Coca-Cola had it amongst its consumers. This credibility was such that it helped the brand to justify the surge in the price of their products, which eventually magnified the sales volume and the top-line (revenue) of their company.

Once again at the top of its game, Coca-Cola led the race of adoption and leapfrogged to take the advantage of the emerging power of television. On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, the company broadcasted a half-hour commercial on CBS. The company also debuted its own radio-friendly ditty, called “Coke Time,” in 1953.

But, Pepsi and resilience also go hand in hand. Yet again, Pepsi came with a flabbergasting idea and thought of turning itself into a lifestyle brand. Pepsi started with an advertisement that showed well-dressed people in elegant settings and showcased their drink as high-quality. Keeping their focus intact on 'elegance', they introduced a swirl bottle in the late 1950s coupled with a “Be Sociable, Have a Pepsi” campaign.

Not only this, this is just the starting point of the advertising rivalry that both these brands have undergone. From social media to television advertisement, both these brands have not foregone any chance to promote themselves and show the rival as inferior.

Fame & Face is all that matters!

Pepsi brought in celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Shakira and Britney Spears to do their advertisements.

Subsequently, Coca-Cola had Whitney Houston sing her heart out for them in the late 1980s. They also invited bands like Maroon 5 and artists like Selena Gomez to their advertisements which increased their overall reach around the world.

In the Indian context, while Salman Khan would do something ‘toofani’ with Coca-Cola’s Thumps Up, Ranbir Kapoor would endorse Pepsi, then and there (“Oh Yes Abhi!”)

Not only that, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have also been actively involved in sports by sponsoring mega sports events like the Olympics and IPL, respectively.

The bottom line

The excellence of a product will only be felt by the consumers when the product comes into their sight. And the methodologies or tactics that can aid a business to attain this is good promotion and advertising. 

According to the 2019 Ad Age Leading National Advertisers report, the top 200 advertisers collectively spent a record $163 billion on advertising in 2018, of which a major chunk was spent by business mammoths like Amazon (32%), Google (23%), and Facebook (236%). 

So, it’s quite evident and justified that promotion and advertising can take the business onto the next level, indeed.

Anyway, can you name another such fierce brand war? We’ll cover good ones in blogs. The comments section is all yours.

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Prabudh Mishra

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Prabudh Mishra is a finance and behavioral economics enthusiast. He has a sense of purpose to eliminate irrationality in human behavior while they make the most crucial financial decisions in their life.

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