India’s climate has both the characteristics of tropical as well as subtropical climate. Therefore, regardless of how heavy the Monsoon or how chilly the Winter, India will forever remain a blazing ball of heat and warmth.
However, thank God for inventor J.J Schweppe for he invented the world’s first-ever bottled soft drink – Schweppes in 1783. Ever since then, there has been a revolution of these bottled software drinks or as we know them now – cold drinks.
Today, we have a myriad of assortments of these carbonated drinks – energy drinks, non-alcoholic cold drinks, cold drinks, etc battling against each other to be at the top and given the weather in India, it is safe to say, it is a cut-throat competition.
However, there have always been only two worthy contenders and they’ve been at it ever since.
What Is The Cola War?
The 1980s saw the war and intense rivalry between the two soft drink giants – Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Two of the biggest companies globally waging an all-out battle to capture people’s imagination and dominate each other as the coolest drink on the block.
Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been battling it out mostly through their marketing campaigns. The marketing of both companies appealed to the time and the age and created such a rivalry that marketing Gurus across the globe stand in awe of it even today.
Since its inception in the 1880s, coke sales were steadily rising throughout the 1930s and 1940s mostly due to its stellar marketing campaigns. Coke’s Santa Clause ads were a big hit as a drink that would bring you joy around the year.
Unlike most brands at the time, Pepsi or Coke didn’t try to sell the effectiveness or quality of the product at first. They focused more on the values that their products had to offer.
By the time World War 2 came around, Coke was everywhere. It was sold on all street corners and was advertised on billboards and posters. Back then, the tagline of Coca-Cola used to be “Friendliest Drink on Earth.” But the biggest boost was during the war.
Cola companies struggled because of the sugar rationing that happened at the time. Coke’s then President, Robert W. Woodruff did something unprecedented. He convinced the White House that Coke was a necessity to the troops and should be exempt from rationing – something that Pepsi wasn’t afforded. Thereby, the sales of Coke were shipped to all American troops and its sales soared.
Sadly, while Coke was thriving, Pepsi was struggling financially going through major restructurings. On June 8, 1965, the Pepsi-Cola Company merged with Frito-Lay Inc. to form the food industry giant we know today – PepsiCo, Inc.
But then, the Cola Wars escalated and intensified as a new means of advertising was born – the Television. Pepsi took full advantage of it by plastering amazing ads across TV screens. They focused on family values and having kids drink Pepsi in most of their ads. One of them was that kids would jig with Michael Jackson while drinking a Pepsi.
Hence, Coke decided to strike back and they launched a commercial which to this day many believe was the best one produced. They gathered young people holding Coke bottles to show a sign of solidarity with the peace efforts and for unity. However, it was a little too late for Pepsi’s shares to steadily rise.
The True Beginning Of The Cola War
In 1975, Pepsi came up with one of their most ingenious campaigns yet and threatened Coke’s reign at the top. It was called the Pepsi Challenge. It was an ad in which people were seen drinking from two bottles – one was a Pepsi and the other was Coke.
Through the ad, it showed how much people loved Pepsi more than Coke. It was the first time that a brand directly used its competitor in its own marketing.
“The Pepsi Challenge was not just a marketing gimmick – it was true,” said David Greising, the author of “I’d Like The World To Buy A Coke.” According to Greising, internal studies at Coca-Cola “confirmed what the Pepsi Challenge was trying to show, which is that if you just look at the taste of the beverage, consumers preferred Pepsi.”
This was a big hit to Coke. They still dominated sales but their market shares were decreasing as Pepsi’s rose. On April 23rd, 1985, Coke announced that it was changing their signature formula to launch a new product that would later be known as “New Coke.”
The aim was to make it sweeter and similar to Pepsi but this backfired. People were livid that they couldn’t have the original Coke flavor anymore.
Naturally, Pepsi capitalized on the situation and declared that they had won the Cola War and gave the workers a one day holiday. They then released a not-so-subtle commercial in which a young girl orders a Pepsi but is secretly given a Coke.
Then in a Marlon Brando Godfather voice asks the guy to make amends because she had ordered a Pepsi and not an abomination of it. This was the first time the Coke logo was actually used in a Pepsi ad.
However, the Coke loyalists organized grassroot organizations like “Old Cola Drinkers of America” across the US and petitioned for the company to change the recipe back.
On 11th July 1985, Coca-Cola announced that they would bring back the old recipe under the name Coca-Cola Classic. The Coke sales were ravenous as they shot up instantly.
Since then, Coke and Pepsi have been constantly trying to one up each other through their ads. There have been times when they’ve even stolen each other’s ambassadors like Amir Khan who was in both Pepsi and Coca-Cola in the 90s. Coke bought Columbia Pictures while Pepsi bought food franchises like KFC, Taco Bell, etc.
To this date, the war rages on. So which team are you in? Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked.
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Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth
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This post is tagged under Coca Cola, Pepsi, cola wars, 1983, J.J Schweppe, first-ever bottled soft drink – Schweppes, genius marketing campaigns, World War 2, soldiers were exempted from sugar rationing, the Pepsi Challenge, Coke with Santa Claus, Pepsi with Michael Jackson, New Coke, Coca Cola Classic, Pepsi bought food Franchise, KFC, Taco Bell, Coca Cola bought Columbia Pictures, the war rages on
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