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Coke vs. Pepsi


Coca-Cola was invented and first marketed in 1886, followed by Pepsi in 1898. Coca-Cola was named after the coca leaves and kola nuts John Pemberton used to make it, and Pepsi after the beneficial effects its creator, Caleb Bradham, claimed it had on dyspepsia. For many years, Coca-Cola had the cola market cornered. Pepsi was a distant, nonthreatening contender. But as the market got more and more lucrative, professional advertising became more and more important. These soda companies have been leading the way in advertising ever since.


Pepsi has definitely leaned towards the appeal of celebrities, popular music, and young people in television commercials, while Coke relies more heavily on images of happiness and togetherness, tradition, and nationalism, perpetually trying to cash in on its original lead. In a simplified sense, you could sum up the strategies as Coke: Old, Pepsi: New. In fact, as we will see, when Coca-Cola tried something new, it was disaster.

The first magazine ad for Coca-Cola appeared in Munsey’s in 1902. Advertisements began to appear on billboards, newspapers, and streetcars. Soon there were serving trays with images of people enjoying Coca-Cola, and glasses with the cola’s name on them. At this time, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were served in drugstore soda fountains.

In 1909, Pepsi used its first celebrity endorser, automobile race driver Barney Oldfield, in newspaper ads. In 1921, Pepsi went bankrupt, but continued to appear on the scene, although not nearly so successfully as Coca-Cola. In 1931, Pepsi went bankrupt again, but the new owner, Roy Megargel, would hit upon an idea that would finally give Coca-Cola some competition. In 1934, he marketed Pepsi in a 12-ounce bottle for a nickel. At the time, Coca-Cola was sold in a 6-ounce bottle for ten cents. Voila! Profits for Pepsi.

Pepsi racked up another first by airing the first radio jingle in 1939. It was so popular that it was played in jukeboxes and became a hit record. here. Coca-Cola hit the airwaves in 1941.

In 1946, inflation forced Pepsi to increase prices. And in 1950, Pepsi offered a larger 26-ounce bottle to court the young American housewife.

In the 1960’s, the cola ad wars moved to television. Coca-Cola employed a host of celebrity singers to promote the product, including Connie Francis , Tom Jones, The New Beats, Nancy Sinatra, and The Supremes. As we moved through the years, both colas incorporated some of their best slogans (“Pepsi Generation” and “the Real Thing”) into subsequent commercials.

In the 1970s, market research showed that consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi over Coke. The Pepsi Challenge is still being conducted today. But Coke came up with what is arguably the best of all cola commercials, the 1971 I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke ad. This landmark was recalled in Christmas versions in 1983 and 1984, and a 1990 Super Bowl ad, which was enough to make some Baby Boomers weep with nostalgia.

In the 1980’s, Pepsi lined up the celebrities, starting with Michael Jackson, then Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Billy Crystal, Lionel Ritchie, Gloria Estefan, Joe Montana, and others. Coke signed on Michael Jordan, New Kids on the Block, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Paula Abdul.

In 1985, responding to the pressure of the Pepsi Challenge taste tests, which Pepsi always won, Coca-Cola decided to change its formula. Bill Cosby was the pitchman. This move set off a shock wave across America. Consumers angrily demanded that the old formula be returned, and Coca-Cola responded three months later with Classic Coke. Eventually, New Coke quietly disappeared.

Pepsi, meanwhile, had its own flop, Crystal Pepsi, which was supposed to catch the strange wave of the times when everything colorless was clean and desirable (Zima, bottled water). And then there was Pepsi Lite with the lemony flavor and one calorie, introduced in 1975. Remember that one? Apparently they didn’t expect us to because later they gave us Pepsi One, using the same concept, but a completely different taste. And, extending the idea even further, we are now getting Pepsi Twist, a new product with a twist of lemon flavor.

In 1991, Ray Charles sang, “You got the right one baby, uh-huh!” Also in the 1990s, Cindy Crawford and the Spice Girls pitched Pepsi. And then Pepsi aired commercials featuring the aggravating little girl (Hallie Eisenberg) with her troubling male voice.

In the new century, both colas continue to battle it out on the television screen. And celebrities continue to be important promoters. Recently, Pepsi has had commercials by Bob Dole and Faith Hill, among others.

It’s clear in looking at the slogans over the years that Coke and Pepsi have very different targeting strategies. Coke is touting itself as the original, the authentic, and appealing to a sense of tradition, positioning itself as an integral part of daily American life. Pepsi, on the other hand, is promoting itself as something new, young, and hip, which seems a little odd after over 100 years. But Coke was first, after all. Pepsi has always targeted the youth market more aggressively than Coke.


1886 – Drink Coca-Cola
1904 – Coca-Cola Satisfies
1904 – Delicious and Refreshing
1905 – Coca-Cola Revives and Sustains
1905 – Good All the Way Down
1906 – The Drink of Quality
1906 – The Great National Temperance
1907 – Delicious Coca-Cola, Sustains, Refreshes, Invigorates
1907 – Cooling . . . Refreshing . . . Delicious
1908 – Sparkling – Harmless as Water, and Crisp as Frost
1909 – Delicious, Wholesome, Refreshing
1910 – It Satisfies
1910 – Quenches Thirst as Nothing Else Can
1911 – It’s Time to Drink Coca-Cola
1911 – Real Satisfaction in Every Glass
1912 – Demand the Genuine – Refuse Substitutes
1913 – The Best Beverage Under the Sun
1913 – A Welcome Addition to Any Party – Anytime – Anywhere
1914 – Ehilarating, Refreshing
1914 – Demand the Genuine by Full Name
1914 – Pure and Wholesome
1916 – Just One Glass Will Tell You
1917 – Three Million A Day
1919 – Quality Tells the Difference
1920 – Drink Coca-Cola with Soda
1922 – Thirst Knows No Season
1922 – Thirst Can’t Be Denied
1922 – Thirst Reminds You – Drink Coca-Cola
1923 – Refresh Yourself
1924 – Pause and Refresh Yourself
1925 – Six Million A Day
1925 – The Sociable Drink
1926 – Stop at the Red Sign
1927 – Around the Corner from Anywhere
1928 – A Pure Drink of Natural Flavors
1929 – The Pause that Refreshes
1930 – Meet Me At the Soda Fountain
1932 – Ice-Cold Sunshine
1933 – Don’t Wear a Tired, Thirsty Face
1934 – Carry a Smile Back to Work
1935 – All Trails Lead to Ice-Cold Coca-Cola
1936 – What Refreshment Ought to Be
1936 – The Refreshing Thing to Do
1937 – America’s Favorite Moment
1937 – So Easy to Serve and So Inexpensive
1938 – The Best Friend Thirst Ever Had
1938 – Pure Sunlight
1938 – Anytime is the Right Time to Pause and Refresh
1939 – Coca-Cola Goes Along
1939 – Make Lunch Time Refreshment Time
1939 – Makes Travel More Pleasant
1939 – The Drink Everybody Knows
1939 – Thirst Stops Here
1940 – Bring in Your Thirst and Go Away Without It
1941 – Completely Refreshing
1942 – Refreshment That Can’t Be Duplicated
1942 – Whoever You Are, Whatever You Do, Wherever You May Be, When You Think of Refreshment, Think of Ice-Cold Coca-Cola.
1943 – The Only Thing Like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola Itself. It’s the Real Thing
1943 – A Taste All Its Own
1943 – That Extra Something
1944 – How About a Coke
1945 – Passport to Refreshment
1945 – Whenever You Hear “Have a Coke,” You Hear the Voice of America
1947 – Coke Knows No Season
1947 – Serving Coca-Cola Serves Hospitality
1948 – Where There’s Coke, There’s Hospitality
1949 – Coca-Cola . . . Along the Highway to Anywhere
1950 – Help Yourself to Refreshment
1951 – Good Food and Coca-Cola Just Naturally Go Together
1952 – What You Want Is a Coke
1953 – Dependable as Sunrise
1954 – For People on the Go
1955 – America’s Preferred Taste
1956 – Coca-Cola – Making Good Things Taste Better
1956 – Feel the Difference
1957 – Sign of a Good Taste
1958 – The Cold, Crisp Taste of Coke
1959 – Be Really Refreshed to Connie Francis
1960 – Relax With Coke
1961 – Coke and Food – Refreshing New Feeling
1962 – Coca-Cola Refreshes You Best
1963 – Things Go Better With Coke to the Kingston Trio
1965 – Something More Than a Soft Drink
1966 – Coke . . . After Coke . . . After Coke
1970 – It’s the Real Thing to the Carpenters
1971 – I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke
1974 – Look Up, America
1976 – Coke Adds Life
1979 – Have a Coke and a Smile
1982 – Coke Is It!
1984 – Just For the Taste of It (Diet Coke)
1985 – Just For the Free of It (Caffeine Free Coke)
1985 – We’ve Got a Taste For You (New Coke)
1985 – America’s Real Choice (Coca-Cola Classic)
1986 – Catch the Wave (New Coke)
1986 – Red, White and You (Coca-Cola Classic)
1987 – You Can’t Beat the Real Thing
1989 – Can’t Beat the Feeling
1990 – Can’t Beat the Real Thing
1993 – Always Coca-Cola
1993 – Taste it All


1903 – Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion
1907 – Original Pure Food Drink
1909 – Delicious and Healthful
1915 – For All Thirsts – Pepsi-Cola
1919 – Pepsi-Cola – It Makes You Scintillate
1920 – Drink Pepsi Cola. It will satisfy you.
1928 – Peps You Up!
1932 – Sparkling, Delicious
1934 – Refreshing and Healthful
1939 – Twice As Much For A Nickel Too
1943 – Bigger Drink, Better Taste
1949 – Why take less when Pepsi’s best?
1950 – More Bounce to the Ounce
1950 – The Light Refreshment
1954 – Refreshing Without Filling
1958 – Be Sociable, have a Pepsi
1961 – Now It’s Pepsi, For Those Who Think Young
1963 – Come Alive! You’re In the Pepsi Generation
1967 – Taste That Beats the Others Cold
1967 – Pepsi Pours It On
1969 – You’ve Got a Lot to Live and Pepsi’s Got a Lot to Give
1973 – Join the Pepsi People Feelin’ Free
1975 – Have a Pepsi Day
1978 – Catch That Pepsi Spirit
1981 – Pepsi’s Got Your Taste For Life!
1983 – Pepsi Now!
1984 – Pepsi, the Choice of a New Generation
1992 – Gotta Have It
1993 – Be Young, Have Fun, Drink Pepsi
1995 – Nothing else is a Pepsi
1999 – The Joy of Cola

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