Ads Coca-Cola Vs Pepsi Cola Case Study

Pepsi True, which will go on sale in the US through Amazon later this month, will be packaged in a green-coloured can resembling Coca-Cola's Coke Life brand.

It is a clear challenge to Coke, but only the latest of many salvos fired in a conflict that harks back to the turn of last century.

Marketing decided to delve into the annals and explore the rivalry between the two soft drinks titans, highlighting some of their biggest spats. In no particular order, here are our favourites.


As far back as the early 1900s, Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola were constantly using ads to snipe at one another over which drink had the most efficacious medicinal properties.

Given that Coke originally had cocaine in the recipe, Pepsi was undoubtedly the healthier option.

The Pepsi Challenge

In 1975, Pepsi launched what has become the definitive taste test – the Pepsi Challenge.

The test, which took place at the likes of malls and shopping centres, saw a Pepsi representative ask members of the public to blind-taste two cola drinks – one Pepsi, the other Coke.

Invariably, the result was that most consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi.

The Pepsi Challenge has also featured in much of Pepsi’s TV advertising.

Coke later decided to play Pepsi at its own game, when in 2009 it ran a US promotion reminiscent of the Pepsi Challenge, trying to persuade consumers that its Vault drink tastes better than its rival's Mountain Dew.

Space – the final frontier?

Not content with keeping their rivalry grounded on planet Earth, in 1985 Coke and Pepsi literally blasted off into space onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

But despite special cans for zero-G and various other technological innovations devised to enable the crew to drink cola in space, neither product impressed the astronauts.

Pepsi 'wins' the Cola Wars

1985 also saw Coke cause controversy when it changed the formula of its core Coca-Cola product and rebadged it 'New! Coke', referring to the product as the "new taste of Coca-Cola".

Research had shown it scored higher in taste tests than either Coke or Pepsi.

Meanwhile, Pepsi execs had managed to obtain some samples prior to the official launch and upon trying the new formula, were as unimpressed as consumers turned out to be.

Nevertheless, not leaving it at that, Pepsi promptly announced that it had won the Cola Wars and gave its entire staff a week off.

Coke eventually replaced New Coke with the original recipe and the name Coca-Cola Classic.

World Cup hijacking

There are numerous examples of Pepsi trying to hijack Coke's FIFA World Cup sponsorship.

In 2006, Pepsi sought to undermine Coca-Cola’s official presence at the 2006 World Cup in Germany with its ‘Pepsi Max World Challenge’ campaign.

Then in 2010 the non-sponsor set out to hijack publicity surrounding the tournament from Coke, which was an official sponsor.

Pepsi launched a global marketing campaign featuring a charity song, ‘Oh Africa’ in January 2010, as football fever for the South Africa-hosted tournament.

It’s a strategy that Pepsi continues with. For this year’s tournament, Pepsi and Coke again went head-to-head in the build up.

Coca-Cola launched its "largest marketing programme" in its history, while Pepsi launched a global TV campaign in more than 100 countries, with a digital version that viewers can interact with and gain a closer look into the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Peace on Twitter

An antidote to all the venom-spitting, in 2009, Coca-Cola and Pepsi kissed and made up. Sort of.

As part of a social experiment between the bitterest of fizzy drinks rivals, creative agency Amnesia Razorfish invited the two companies - both on Twitter, but not fellow followers - to go out on a limb and acknowledge one another.

Amnesia Razorfish founder Iain McDonald sent a tweet which read: "RT to end an old war: Dear @pepsi and @cocacola, why not follow each other on Twitter and be friends :)"

Coca-Cola was first to respond: "@eunmac Iain, I think that's a fine idea. A gracious (but competitive) hello from Coca-Cola, @pepsi."

Which evoked this response from Pepsi: "Helloooo @CocaCola and @eunmac! Can rivals and tweeps coexist? We're willing to find out. :)"

Which marketing style do you prefer?

We are pleased to introduce the first in a new Brandwatch blog series, pitting brand against brand in a social presence showdown.

For our inaugural post, what more appropriate place to begin than with the two most heated rivals in the beverage business: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Maintaining a near duopoly on soda products, Coke and Pepsi are natural enemies.

The contention that exists between the two brands is best characterized by the well-known Pepsi Challenge, which asks strangers to sit down blindfolded, try both products, and decide once and for all which is superior.

The general consensus from the taste test was that Pepsi was better. Of course, identifying which product is preferred is not really that simple. Furthermore, as Malcolm Gladwell points out, there are a few qualms with the methodology of the “sip test,” which was put on by PepsiCo.

Yet beyond the interaction of the fizzy soda against our palates there is another reaction affecting our tastes.

As any marketer will point out, a consumer’s experience is also influenced by every exposure to the brand’s messaging along the way.

So if the difference between these sodas is so marginal that it warrants a blindfolded taste test, then it’s likely that it’s the branding that will ultimately play a big role in consumers’ decisions.

The following analysis examines the ancient soda feud using organically occurring Twitter conversations.

This is the Coke vs Pepsi Social Presence Showdown.

The data dump

Now for the data dump.

First off, let’s look at the conversation as a whole. In our latest report on the Restaurant, Food & Beverage industry, we examine the total share of voice for several leading soda brands.

Conversation around Coke was over 2.5 times greater than that of Pepsi.

That is perhaps unsurprising, as Coca-Cola’s market capitalization is over 30% greater than PepsiCo’s, Coca-Cola spends considerably more on advertising, and Coke has 120,000 more Twitter followers than Pepsi.

Furthermore, in our proprietary Social Index, Coke scored higher than Pepsi across all four categories.

Compares both Facebook and Twitter conversations directed at the brands for the month of April. For more information on the Social Index, download our latest Restaurant, Food & Beverage report or contact us directly.

The raw numbers are clearly indicative of Coca-Cola’s dominance.

In April, Pepsi’s #outoftheblue sweepstakes campaign led for visibility on Twitter.

While the campaign, which offered fans the chance to travel, hang out with celebrities or enjoy other unique experiences, promoted brand mentions and awareness, the majority of the chatter focused on the prizes and offered little merit to the brand itself.

On the other hand, Coca-Cola’s revitalized #shareacoke campaign garnered more meaningful chatter, which had a specifically significant effect on the brand’s sentiment score.

A (somewhat) more qualitative look

While the quantitative analysis already depicts Coca-Cola’s product as a clear winner, a qualitative look at the actual tweets helps put some human context to the all the pie charts and bar graphs.

For the sake of the Coke-Pepsi Social Presence Showdown, what we were really interested in is the conversations comparing the two products.

Searching specifically for chatter mentioning both “Coke” and “Pepsi” painted a picture even more partial to Coke.

Scrolling through the conversations, an overwhelming majority of them state a clear preference for Coke (a quick sample estimates around 10 times as many tweets in favor of Coke).

Furthermore, while Pepsi proponents recognize that theirs is an “unpopular opinion,” Coke fans go as far to vehemently deem their Pepsi counterparts as “evil” or say they “don’t trust” them. That is brand loyalty.

Still, the most common form of tweet comparing the two brands referred to a familiar situation:

The final decision

For the first showdown, the decision seems almost too obvious: Coke is a landslide winner.

Yet perhaps the more important question is: how can Pepsi adapt to gain a stronger social presence? The answers could again be hidden in social data.

Pepsi will have to find creative ways identify and amplify their passionate followers and comparative advantages.

As an example, the analysis below reveals what types of food consumers associate with the two beverages on social media:

While Coca-Cola is more often associated with burgers and french fries, Pepsi leans toward pizza. A similar analysis of alcohol brands revealed that while Coke dominates the Jack Daniels association, Pepsi has a comparative advantage with Appleton’s Rum.

Uncovering and emphasizing these natural associations, brands can begin to carve out and own niche segments of the market.

At the aggregate level, social media data can uncover or inform brand strategies to narrow in on competitors.

Yet at the individual level, a single tweet or Facebook post may inspire the creative campaign that brings a brand into the lead.

Brands that can see both the trees and the forest will ultimately be better suited to leverage the full range of capabilities that social media data offers.

If you have any suggestions for the next Social Presence Showdown, feel free to tweet @Brandwatch.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about Social Listening in the Restaurant, Food & Beverage Industry, we invite you to read our latest report.

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James Lovejoy

James loves music, the outdoors, travelling and Fenway Franks.


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