Cola Wars…Here We Go Again


Pepsi has always been on the edgier side with their marketing and they have done it again.  Always the company to ignite rivalry with their taste tests and comparison commercials, they released a TV ad during the 1995 Superbowl titled “Diner” pitting Pepsi against Coca-Cola.  The commercial ends with “Nothing else is like a Pepsi”.  You can see the ad below.

Recently, Pepsi has released a sequel to this TV ad – Diner2 or War – pitting Pepsi Max against Coca-Cola Zero.  In this updated spot, the Pepsi driver offers a Pepsi Max to the Coca-Cola driver, snaps a video of him drinking it, and then posts it on youtube.  The tag line at the end of this updated commercial is “Zero Calories, Maximum Pepsi Taste”.  25 years later, and Pepsi is still trying to ignite rivalry with Coca-Cola.  First it was against Coca-Cola and now it’s Coca-Cola Zero.  But despite all the commercial views on TV and online, does this ad work?  And the more important question, does it created the desired effect of switching Coca-Cola Zero drinkers to Pepsi Max?  The commercial can be seen here.

It is obvious what is being advertised in the updated commercial, and it uses humor to play off of the taboo of a Coke driver drinking a Pepsi Max, and ends reminding consumers with the tagline “Zero Calories, Maximum Pepsi Taste”.  Will this get anyone to buy a Pepsi Max?

BevWire doesn’t think it works.  While the commercial is funny, it won’t get anyone to change to Pepsi Max – it lacks a compelling message to get a consumer to switch.  It advertises itself as a copycat of both Pepsi and Coca-Cola Zero when it’s trying to communicate maximum taste but zero calories.  With all the logos involved pitting the two against each other, it is obvious Pepsi Max is trying to one-up Coca-Cola Zero through the ad.  Then the ad finishes saying “Zero Calories, Maximum Pepsi Taste” .  Maximum Pepsi Taste!?  Why go through an entire 60 spot to showcase yourself against one competitor (Coca-Cola Zero) and end with the tagline comparing yourself to Pepsi?  This wasted the commercial’s comparison with the new focus on Pepsi.  Would a tagline like “Zero Calories.  Nothing else like a Pepsi Max” be better since it maintains the focus on Pepsi Max?  Compared to Coca-Cola Zero’s latest commercial, this Pepsi Max commercial lacks originality despite its desire to portray originality.  At least Coca-Cola Zero communicates to its audience that it offers real Coca-Cola taste with no calories, and does this while focusing on its own product.

Ultimately, this commercial won’t change anyone’s opinion of their zero calorie beverages.  Those that enjoy Pepsi Max will keep on buying Pepsi Max, and those that choose Coca-Cola Zero will continue to purchase Coca-Cola Zero as well.

Another question that lingers in the mind may be how Coca-Cola will react to this commercial, will they do anything to combat this comparison ad?  When the entire carbonated soft drink category seems low single digit growth last year and Coca-Cola Zero experiences double digit growth, there will definitely be someone out there trying to copy you and take your growth away.  Coca-Cola Zero’s reaction should be flattery since Pepsi Max is trying to imitate them, because it provides additional publicity for Coca-Cola Zero free of charge and reinforces the fact that Pepsi Max is a copycat.  Will Coca-Cola do anything to combat this ad?  If a reminder is needed, look no further than in their own history with the New Coke launch failure.  If you get caught up in what the competitor and media is saying about your own product, your own fears will become a self-fulfilling truth forcing you to make an action that you will later regret.  BevWire thinks Coca-Cola should maintain status quo with their own advertising.  When you are the category leader (zero calories soft drinks), and you’ve built up brand loyalty through your own set of ads communicating your own great taste, why stoop to the level of your competitor and engage in another round of the Cola Wars?

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