Diverse Customer : Coca-Cola WINS where Pepsi FAILS

Although my career has been about balancing customer equity, brand profitability, loyalty and scaled growth through the right messaging strategy and content innovation, I can't speak intelligently on the competitive situation between the two popular beverages, Coca-Cola and Pepsi -  but I've always preferred Coke over Pepsi only because how Coca-Cola conducts itself as a brand. For the record both beverages are poison.

Clearly, this post isn't about my preference and whether I endorse Coca-Cola because that's the last thing I'd like to endorse :)

This post is about how Coca-Cola and Pepsi are reaffirming their foothold in the face of rapid change in consumer behaviours. Both brands are vying for millennial attention because millennials are the reigning trendsetters. Infact, their entire rebranding initiatives have been channelled into attracting this generational demographic cohort following baby boomers.  Both also recognise that not everyone wants a carbonated drink, so both are bringing in tremendous diversity in their product portfolios.

Millennials are typically sceptical of marketing and often connect with brands that have a distinctive personality and a smart ass repartee. It’s endearing to see how Coca-Cola and Pepsi are piquing that interest.

Pepsi's monomaniacal focus in seeming to be driven by diversity (throwing in every possible ethnicity and international activist and cultural movement in the ad that was taken off following a massive backlash) gave their millennial-centred brand a hit and ended up alienate the majority of them because even though they tried very hard to fit in, the world could see through their one dimensional and linear approach - Just give him(Police) a Pepsi and everything is solved! Kendall the heroine is created!

While Coca-Cola has managed to traverse through many sensitivities without the unnecessary patronizing undertones. The brand launched the “Love Story” advert, which communicates the importance of recycling their bottles. The beauty of the creative is that it reminds people that their packaging is valuable because it can be recycled into more packaging over and over again. Coca-Cola HBC, a leading bottler of The Coca-Cola Company, has also been named sustainability leader in the beverage industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices assessment for the fourth consecutive year. Their bottles and cans are 100 per cent recyclable building a brand that is socially conscious or stands for a cause builds better brand loyalty.

I would consider that Coca-Cola has earned a far better reputation globally as the more desirable of the two brands. And this would be due in large part to the consistency of its positioning. Pepsi has deliberately tried to attach itself to youth culture & values, which requires it to change its stripes more often. Coke's position is far more enduring, perhaps because it only seems to target a certain fringe of millennials and not the generation in entirety!

I also recall Pepsi's constant attempts to take jabs at its competitor using negative messaging that derives its positioning or the lack of it from showing the latter(Coke) repeatedly in poor light. While Coke's response has been that of constant nonchalnce.

-Amit Anand