The Pepsi Challenge - Paper Lime Creative
The Pepsi Challenge
Write By: Katie Dooley

The Best Marketing Campaign?

Oh the Pepsi Challenge… It was a great marketing campaign for them, truly it was. It gave them quantitative evidence that people prefer the taste of Pepsi to Coke. I remember doing the Pepsi challenge at a mall in the mid-90s, I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 10, and I remember picking Pepsi.

The Pepsi Challenge has been an ongoing campaign since the 1970s, and I don’t think we’ve seen a more epic neck-in-neck battle except for maybe the recent and massive growth of Apple vs PC.

The unfortunate problem with the Pepsi challenge is that although they have the evidence that people prefer Pepsi, Coca-Cola still holds the greater market share. The Coca-Cola market share did drop, to a point where Pepsi was beating them in the 70s, but that was because Coca-Cola panicked, and tried to change up their branding to be more like Pepsi.

Here is where the marketing and branding gold is. They were successful because they weren’t like Pepsi. They lost market share when they tried to be more like Pepsi. Even when Pepsi is quantitatively a better product. 

To be even more clear: Coke sells a worse tasting product than its competitor, Pepsi. But 120+ years of hard work in marketing and advertising allows them to reign supreme. If you are still wondering what branding can do for your business, be sure to dig deeper into the results of the Pepsi Challenge. 

What does Coca-Cola do really well that you can use in your own business?

  1. Consistency: Their logo has barely changed in all the years they’ve been in business and Coca-Cola red is iconic. They (mostly) haven’t changed their formula, so you know exactly what to expect when you crack open a can.
  2. They know how to target their ideal customer. Coca-Cola does a great job showcasing the lifestyle of their customers. All the ads have groups of people enjoying life, and there’s a lot of creativity and artwork infused into them. You know you’re going to have fun and create a connection when you have a Coke
  3. Community building: Coke has collectible merchandise! Some of this comes with being so old, but Robin Hood Flour has been around nearly as long and I don’t know anyone that collects Robin Hood products. Coca-Cola has done a great job making their promo materials desirable (this ties into the lifestyle) and producing great pieces that people actually want. 

Be a Coca-Cola in a world full of Pepsis. The Pepsi Challenge is a brilliant marketing campaign, but nothing beats consistency and building a community and lifestyle around your ideal customers.