- Teaching Notes
For over a century, rivals Pepsi and Coke have jockeyed for position as America’s soft drink of choice. The Coca-Cola Company, created in 1886, is the world’s largest beverage corporation, offering over 500 brands to consumers in 200 countries. Pepsi-Cola, founded seven years later in 1893, is one of the world’s leading food and beverage conglomerates. In the early 1980s, the term “Cola Wars” was coined to describe the feud between the two companies. What makes the Coke/Pepsi rivalry so intriguing is that their products are basically identical. They are both brown, cola-flavored, syrupy, carbonated beverages. To some consumers, Coke and Pepsi don’t even taste that different. More so, the two industry leaders are practically the same size organizations with similar products and strategies. With the very low level of differentiation between Coke and Pepsi, their competition is cutthroat.
So why do these very similar products generate such passionate brand loyalty? Each cola giant has utilized similar advertising and marketing tactics to outperform the other. The ongoing warfare involves many weapons, such as offering an extensive assortment of flavors, using futuristic technology, celebrity endorsements, logos, slogans, co-branding, sponsorships, and creative promotions, and constantly thinking outside the can. In the United States, and most global markets, Coke dominates, but Pepsi is always present to poke fun at the original cola drink. The fact that Pepsi has survived, and even thrived, for so long is verification that its persistent brand storytelling and strategy of being a formidable underdog works. The war between the two iconic American brands has intensified, and there is no end in sight. Coke or Pepsi? It’s a question that’s been around longer than the oldest living person. The war rages on.