What is it that makes the cola war such an endlessly fascinating
On a rational level there’s nothing to choose between Pepsi and Coke,
two reasonably palatable fizzy thirst quenchers with little discernible
difference in taste.
But since when did rationality and logic have anything to do with the
sales battle that has locked the two multinational leviathans in
Now, Pepsi’s festering frustration at playing perpetual second fiddle to
Coke has translated into a marketing offensive of mind-blowing
proportions (Campaign, last week). Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer,
Andre Agassi, even the supersonic Concorde, are the central features of
a dollars 500 million Europe-wide campaign.
And all so that Pepsi can put distance between itself and its great
rival by laying claim to the colour blue.
Any newly landed Martian might be forgiven for wondering whether the
drinks pedlars have taken leave of their senses and whether the average
punter cares a fig about the hue of his cola can.
Those a bit closer to earth know different. Pepsi’s brave gamble sets
the stage for a titanic contest that will show just how important
advertising can be in determining the success - or lack of it - of
almost identical brands.
It’s not only that most colas taste the same. New cars have reached
standards of engineering excellence that make them almost
indistinguishable. Airlines transport their passengers in ‘flying tubes’
in which cabin service varies little. What has catapulted companies like
British Airways ahead of the chasing pack has been the quality and
memorability of their advertising.
The result of so much product parity has been that now, more than ever,
we know the measure of the difference that outstanding advertising can
In the end, it may be that advertising will emerge as the true winner.