For many years, Coca Cola and Pepsi have enjoyed the position as the two most enjoyed soft drinks in the USA, as they have maintained their popularity over the past several decades. One can divide soft drink fans into two major camps: Coke-lovers and Pepsi-lovers. Each of the camps substantiates its favoritism not only on flavor, but also on ideas, facts, and preferences that justify its choice and allow it to stay true to its selection. The following analysis of the history of Pepsi and Coca Cola explores Pepsi and Coke with an emphasis on advertising and cultural significance of these efforts, discovering what makes these soft drinks so popular and what differentiates them from each other. What emerges is that there is little in the way of differences between Coke and Pepsi outside of different cultural histories.
There are many similarities between Coca Cola and Pepsi and the history of Coca Cola is nothing like the history of Pepsi outside of the fact that both companies were advertising soda. Both were intended to serve as recreational drinks associated with parties, fun, sex, and entertainment. The two drinks have just about the same color, the same amount of carbon dioxide, and have a similar taste. While in the past they both used different natural extracts from the coca nut, nowadays they both rely on artificial flavors and man-made components (Pendergrast 87). Taste tests between Coca Cola and Pepsi are as iconic as the beverages themselves and the advertising history of Pepsi is most responsible for this.
The main difference between Coke and Pepsi is their respective history and how they efforts, especially with advertising, came to define each brand. Coca Cola was designed in 1885 by a pharmacist named John Stith Pemberton and was recommended as a tonic. The presence of cocaine in Coke (hence the name “coke” or “cocaine drink”) meant that it could effectively fight depression and at the same time made users addicted to the drink. Although cocaine was abolished in the USA by the Food and Drug Administration in 1904,signifying that this key ingredient of the soft drink had to change, Coke retained its name and promoted the beverage through aggressive advertising. Pepsi was created in 1898 by a pharmacist named Caleb Bradham. It was originally named “Brad’s Drink,” and was created as Coke’s primary competitor at this point in the history of Coca Cola. Although it got a later start, the PepsiCo also placed emphasis on advertising. In fact, since its earliest days Pepsi has been challenging Coke through advertising by using celebrities, positioning itself as a drink for sports fans, and promoting an image of non-conformity and daring (Witzel 111). Therefore, whereas Coke represented fun time only, Pepsi represented athletes, fun time, and non-standard ideas.
The advertising histories of the companies are interesting and hint at some of the ways in which each company has attempted to appeal to and develop a distinct customer base. One interesting fact about Coke is that in its advertising campaigns featuring men and women having fun, blonde women holding the drink are never featured. Urban legends say that Coke’s founder was once badly rejected by a blonde, so he promised that blondes would never be found in Coke ads holding a bottle. Even during the age of emancipation and anti-discriminatory laws there wasn’t a single ad in which a blonde held a bottle. Interestingly, in terms of the history of Pepsi, it has always had advertising deemed superior to Coke’s, and its larger profit margins seem to substantiate the claim that Pepsi’s success has been greater than Coke’s (Capparell 193).
To summarize, Coca-cola and Pepsi are the two major soft drinks in the USA. Both drinks are considered all-American in a certain sense, and are frequently paired with the words that reflect the country’s most cherished ideals, including “democratic,” “independent,” “fun,” and “free.” Although Coke has a longer history, Pepsi has historically leveraged its advertising strength and has, ever since its creation, managed to compete effectively with Coke. Pepsi’s advertising success was sealed by linking itself to celebrities who participated in Pepsi ads. Both beverages in all other respects are just about the same: color, taste, and amount of carbon dioxide. The two drinks have gained and sustained their popularity. The two camps of “Coke lovers” and “Pepsi fans” polarized the soft drink market in the USA to the point of making Coca-Cola and Pepsi among the most recognizable brand names in the world.