Coke and Pepsi both have a fascinating history, some historical advertising moments, and are notable international companies. Soda is still a favorite of consumers. In fact, carbonated soft drinks still accounted for $81 billion in sales in North America in 2016, according to Beverage Digest. Soda is cheaper to make than other beverages and often cheaper to buy. People stick to their preferences on the Coke versus Pepsi debate. Each has a unique taste to it and the reasons people enjoy one over the other might be due to a multiple of factors. The term “Cola Wars” has been used to describe the rivalry between the two companies.
Coco-Cola was introduced over 100 years ago. Coca‑Cola was created by John S. Pemberton and served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy. The company accountant, Frank Robinson, introduced the drink “Coca‑Cola,” thinking the two Cs would look well in advertising. In 1887 Coupons were first used to promote Coca‑Cola. John Pemberton registers his “Coca‑Cola Syrup and Extract” label as a copyright with the U.S. Patent Office. In the early 1900’s Coke became the national drink of baseball. Coke has grown significantly since it’s humble beginnings of selling nine drinks in its first year. In 2013, Coke products were sold in over 200 countries worldwide, with consumers drinking more than 1.8 billion company beverage servings each day.
Coca-Cola has had very creative marketing over the years. “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” or “Hilltop” as the ad is often called, was created in 1971. The song for the ad was recorded by The New Seekers, a popular Australian folk music group. Released as a radio ad in February of that year, the song was then filmed as a television spot on a hilltop outside of Rome, Italy, featuring an international group of young people. The ad was an instant classic with thousands of people writing the Company requesting the music.
Coca-cola is also moving forward and innovating new ideas. In January of 2018, Coke announced new Diet Coke flavors and a new can. The campaign was aimed at a younger crowd. “Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their side,” Rafael Acevedo, the group director for Diet Coke in North America, said in a statement about the new look and flavors. “We’re making the brand more relatable and more authentic.”
However, there is nothing that beats that fresh coco-cola taste. The exact formula of Coca-Cola’s natural flavorings is a trade secret. The original copy of the formula was held in SunTrust Bank’s main vault in Atlanta for 86 years. On December 8, 2011, the original secret formula was moved from the vault at SunTrust Banks to a new vault containing the formula which will be on display for visitors to its World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta.
Pepsi was first introduced as “Brad’s Drink” in New Bern, North Carolina, United States, in 1893 by Caleb Bradham, who made it at his drugstore where the drink was sold. It was renamed Pepsi-Cola in 1898 after the root of the word “dyspepsia” and the kola nuts used in the recipe.
Unlike Coke, Pepsi hit a bump in the road early on. In 1931, at the depth of the Great Depression, the Pepsi-Cola Company entered bankruptcy large part due to financial losses incurred by gambling on the wildly fluctuating sugar prices as a result of World War I. However, things turned around for the company in a short time. During the Great Depression, Pepsi gained popularity following the introduction in 1936 of a 12-ounce bottle. With a radio advertising campaign featuring the jingle “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot / Twice as much for a nickel, too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you,” arranged in such a way that the jingle never ends. Pepsi encouraged price-watching consumers to switch. Calling out the Coca-Cola standard of 6.5 ounces per bottle for the price of five cents, instead of the 12 ounces, Pepsi sold at the same price. Marketed at a time of economic crisis, the campaign succeeded in boosting Pepsi’s status. From 1936 to 1938, Pepsi-Cola’s profits doubled. The rivalry between the two companies goes a long way back.
Like Coke, Pepsi has had a long run of creative marketing. Through the intervening decades, there have been many different Pepsi theme songs sung on television by a variety of artists. From Joanie Summers to the Jacksons to Britney Spears, celebrity royalty has often been seen sipping on a Pepsi in a commercial or on breaks on set. In 1975, Pepsi introduced the Pepsi Challenge marketing campaign where PepsiCo set up a blind tasting between Pepsi-Cola and rival Coca-Cola. A bold move and risky test, luckily the majority of participants picked Pepsi as the better tasting of the two soft drinks. Pepsi has been featured in several films, including Back to the Future Part II, Home Alone, Wayne’s World, Fight Club, and World War Z. Pepsi tried to appeal to young customers last year with a poorly received commercial featuring Kendall Jenner offering a soda to a police officer on a protest line. After a backlash, the company apologized and pulled the ad.
Coca-Cola continues to outsell Pepsi in almost all areas of the world. However, exceptions include Oman, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan where Pepsi has been a dominant sponsor of the Pakistan cricket team since the 1990s. In the last decade, Coke’s market share has risen from 17.3% to 17.8%, while Pepsi’s has dropped from 10.3% to 8.4%, according to Beverage Digest, a trade publication. Whatever taste you prefer, each company has taken a different route to the success they see today. So, what will it be for you, Coke or Pepsi?
Jazmin is an avid supporter of civil rights and is passionate about open discussions
about race, culture and current politics. She was a research assistant and loves the
pursuit of knowledge.