Cola Wars

The Cola Wars are a campaign of mutually-targeted television advertisements and marketing campaigns since the 1980s between soft drink manufacturers Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Incorporated.



Many of the brands available from the three largest soda producers, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, are intended as direct, equivalent competitors. The following chart lists these competitors by type or flavor of drink.

Flavor/type PepsiCo The Coca-Cola Company Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Cola Pepsi Coca-Cola RC Cola
Diet Cola Diet Pepsi / Pepsi Light
Pepsi ONE
Pepsi Max
Diet Coke / Coca-Cola Light
Coca-Cola Zero
Diet Rite
Diet RC Cola
Cherry-flavored cola Pepsi Wild Cherry Coca-Cola Cherry Cherry RC
"Pepper"-style Dr Slice Mr. Pibb / Pibb Xtra Dr Pepper
Orange Mirinda
Tropicana Twister
Minute Maid
Lemon-lime Teem
Sierra Mist
7 Up (in countries other than US)
Lemon & Paeroa
7 Up (in US)
Other citrus flavors Mountain Dew
Mello Yello
Sun Drop
Ginger ale Patio Seagram's Ginger Ale Canada Dry
Root beer Mug Root Beer Barq's
Ramblin' Root Beer (until 1995)
A&W Root Beer
Hires Root Beer
IBC Root Beer
Cream soda Mug Cream Soda Barq's Red Creme Soda A&W Cream Soda
IBC Cream Soda
Juices Tropicana
(prepackaged only, under license)
Minute Maid
Simply Orange
Nantucket Nectars
Iced tea Lipton
(ready-to-drink products only, under license from Unilever)
(manufactured by Nestlé in the US and by a joint venture between Nestlé and Coca-Cola elsewhere)
Sports drinks Gatorade
All Sport

Marketing campaigns

Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola focused particularly on rock stars; notable soft drink promoters included Mariah Carey,KISS, Tina Turner, Britney Spears, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Ray Charles (for Pepsi) and Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul, Weird Al Yankovic, George Michael, Christina Aguilera, Max Headroom, and Elton John (for Coca-Cola).


One example of a heated exchange that occurred during the Cola Wars was Coca-Cola making a strategic retreat on July 11, 1985, by announcing its plans to bring back the original 'Classic' Coke after recently introducing New Coke.


Pepsi ads often focused on celebrities choosing Pepsi over Coke, supporting Pepsi's positioning as "The Choice of a New Generation." In 1975, Pepsi began showing people doing blind taste tests called Pepsi Challenge in which they preferred one product over the other, and then they began hiring more and more popular spokespersons to promote their products. In their hope to win the Cola Wars a Concorde was painted blue with PEPSI written across it in white lettering.

In the late 1990s, Pepsi launched its most successful long-term strategy of the Cola Wars, Pepsi Stuff. Consumers were invited to "Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff" and collect Pepsi Points on billions of packages and cups. They could redeem the points for free Pepsi lifestyle merchandise. After researching and testing the program for over two years to ensure that it resonated with consumers, Pepsi launched Pepsi Stuff, which was an instant success. Tens of millions of consumers participated. Pepsi outperformed Coke during the summer of the Atlanta Olympics - held in Coke's hometown - where Coke was a lead sponsor of the Games. Due to its success, the program was expanded to include Mountain Dew, and into Pepsi's international markets worldwide. The company continued to run the program for many years, continually innovating with new features each year.[1]

The Pepsi Stuff promotion became the subject of a lawsuit. In one of the many commercials, Pepsi showed a young man in the cockpit of a Harrier Jump Jet. Below ran the caption "Harrier Jet: 7 million Pepsi Points." There was a mechanism for buying additional Pepsi Points to complete a Pepsi Stuff order. John Leonard, of Seattle, Washington, sent in a Pepsi Stuff request with the maximum amount of points and a check for over $700,000US to make up for the extra points he needed. Pepsi did not accept the request and Leonard filed suit. The judgment was that a reasonable person viewing the commercial would realize that Pepsi was not, in fact, offering a Harrier Jet. In response to the suit, Pepsi added the words "Just Kidding" under the portion of the commercial featuring the jet as well as changing the "price" to 700 million Pepsi points (see Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.).

Coca-Cola and Pepsi engaged in a "cyber-war" with the re-introduction of Pepsi Stuff in 2005 & Coca-Cola retaliated with Coke Rewards. This cola war has now concluded, with Pepsi Stuff ending its services and Coke Rewards still offering prizes on their website. Both were loyalty programs that give away prizes and product to consumers after collecting bottle caps and 12 or 24 pack box tops, then submitting codes online for a certain number of points. However, Pepsi's online partnership with Amazon allowed consumers to buy various products with their "Pepsi Points", such as mp3 downloads. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi previously had a partnership with the iTunes Store.

In space

Coke and Pepsi cans flown aboard STS-51-F on display at the National Air and Space Museum
Mock-up of Coke dispenser flown aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1995, on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame. (Erroneously associated with STS-77; this model flew aboard STS-63)[2]

In 1985, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-51-F. The companies had designed special cans (officially the Carbonated Beverage Dispenser Evaluation payload or CBDE) to test packaging and dispensing techniques for use in zero G conditions. The experiment was classified a failure by the shuttle crew, primarily due to the lack of both refrigeration and gravity.[citation needed]

The "Coca-Cola Space Dispenser" (Fluids Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus-1, or FGBA-1) was designed to provide astronauts the opportunity to enjoy Coca-Cola and Diet Coke in the weightless environment of space, and to "provide baseline data on changes in astronauts' taste perception of beverages consumed in microgravity."[3] It held 1.65 liters each of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke. An astronaut would dispense the carbonated drink of choice into a "Fluids Transfer Unit" or sealed drinking cup through a quick connect on the dispenser. To save power, the dispenser would chill the liquid on demand via cooling coils between the storage container and the quick connect fitting. The FGBA-1 and 18 of the "Fluid Transfer Units" flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1995. (STS-63)[4]

Further development led to a Coca-Cola fountain dispenser (Fluids Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus-2 or FGBA-2) intended as "a test bed to determine if carbonated beverages can be produced from separately stored carbon dioxide, water and flavored syrups and determine if the resulting fluids can be made available for consumption without bubble nucleation and resulting foam formation".[5] This unit dispensed Powerade sports drink in addition to Coca-Cola and Diet Coke. This unit flew on STS-77 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1996. Unfortunately, the FGBA-2 did not work as expected.

Second Cola War

During the 1990s, a "second cola war" was reported in the United Kingdom. This time it was due to the launch of Virgin Cola, as well as Sainsbury's store brand Classic Cola, which, unlike most store brand colas, was designed to look like a top product worthy of competition. For a few years both colas were competitive with Coca-Cola and Pepsi; at one point Coca-Cola even sued Sainsbury's claiming the design of the Classic Cola can was too similar to Coke's. However, today, both Virgin and Classic Cola are far behind the two major brands.

The high-publicity marketing also continued into the 1990s. In 1997, the Spice Girls (then at their peak) signed a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Pepsi. They starred in three Pepsi commercials; released two limited edition singles with Pepsi, "Move Over" and "Step To Me"; featured on Pepsi packaging; and performed two live concerts in Istanbul organised and sponsored by the company.

Cola Wars Today

Pepsi was knocked to third place behind Coca Cola and Diet Coke, Diet Coke out-sold Pepsi in 2010. Coca Cola sold 1.6 Billion cases of its regular soda and 927 Million cases of its diet soda, while Pepsi sold only 892 Million cases. [6]

See also


External links

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