Coke vs. Pepsi – the battle for our hearts

What is a cola? 

Well, it depends on the brand. 

According to the information on the packaging, Pepsi Cola ingredients are “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, phosphoric acid, caffeine. Citric acid, natural flavor.”

Coca Cola ingredients are “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.”

Hey, wait a minute… both sodas are kind of the same thing, aren’t they? 

“Oh no!” scream the Pepsi enthusiasts.  “Absolutely not!” shout the Coke fans.  Many people… maybe even you… swear they can tell the difference between the two brands. 

I, however, am of the opinion that a cola is a cola is a cola.  So why then do people feel so incredibly loyal to one or the other?

Because of emotional marketing.  Emotions are the heart and soul of successful brand communication, and Coke and Pepsi figured that out long ago.

Let’s look at Coca Cola’s traditional marketing, starting with the classic red script logo – which dates back to 1891.  (Yes!  Over 130 years ago!)  The logo was based on a font which was the most widely used form of formal handwriting back then.  Red was chosen for stylistic (red is the color of power and excellence) reasons, but also because the company wanted the product to look different from competitors.  The bottle was originally called the “Mae West” bottle after the actress’s famous curvaceous figure. 

Of course, ‘It’s the Real Thing’ slogan communicated the importance Coca Cola placed on being recognized as the original cola.

Coca Cola is all about America, wholesomeness, polar bears, and Santa Claus.  It’s about tradition. 

Now let’s look at Pepsi’s marketing.  Originally, the Pepsi logo resembled the Coca Cola logo – cursive red logo and curved lines.  A patriotic redesign in 1950 introduced the now familiar red, white and blue spherical shape that subtly suggests a smile.

Pepsi has never stuck with a branding message for very long, with the exception of the extremely successful “The Choice of a New Generation” which they used in the 1980s.  Pepsi went all-out on commercials featuring some of the biggest names in ’80s entertainment, including David Bowie, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, and Michael J. Fox, and of course, Michael Jackson.

 This campaign positioned Pepsi as the choice of young people.  It also re-positioned Coke as the choice of… us old folks?

(This was an incredibly successful campaign for Pepsi – so why aren’t they still using it?  Because their trademark expired in 2006 and no one bothered to renew it.  A company called Better Oats swooped in and grabbed it.)

So – back to the original question.  If Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola are both essentially the same product – why are customers so fiercely loyal to one brand or another?   Because preference is frequently determined by which product has done a better job in connecting with us emotionally.  This is what we call emotional marketing.

Neither cola brags about its features – for instance, neither claims to taste better or how cheap they are.  Coke believes in classic American excellence.  Pepsi believes in being young and edgy and dynamic.  That’s their branding.

Consumers are drawn to products that are good at communicate what they believe in. 

At its core, emotional marketing is about connecting with your audience on a deeper, more personal level. It’s the art of tapping into the emotions that drive human behavior, influencing perceptions and building a brand identity that resonates with your target audience. From joy and excitement to nostalgia and empathy, emotions are the secret sauce that transforms a transactional relationship into a meaningful connection.

When you market your business, don’t tell consumers what you do or how you do it.  Tell us what you believe in.  This will help define your unique selling proposition by creating an emotional footprint that distinguishes you from competitors.

Contact Atomic Creative today to learn more about how we can help you define your unique selling proposition by creating an emotional footprint that distinguishes you from competitors.

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