Archive for August, 2011

Cats and Dogs, Coke and Pepsi

August 4, 2011

I know I’ve said it before, but I love it when consumer brands go negative. First, it serves as an important signal to people who claim only political ads play in the mud and bemoan negative ads, that negative ads are all around us. Secondly, it’s usually an interesting to see the approach that consumer brands take as they go after each other — often to less effect than negative political ads.

Here are two ads for Pepsi going directly after Coke:

What I find interesting about the approach of these ads is that they aren’t taking on Coke on the “issues” or the “facts.” There is no price comparison or taste comparison here, these ads are making a purely emotional appeal.  “Summer time is pepsi time.”

I just started reading a promising book, “Storytelling: Branding in Practice,” and the author makes the following point, which puts the Pepsi approach into an eye opening context:

“The brand story gradually becomes synonymous with how we define ourselves as individuals and the products become the symbols that we use to tell the story our ourselves.” 

These pepsi ads are trying to tell a story about the brand that is Pepsi.

Pepsi = fun, partying, summer, hip. If you identify with those qualities or want to identify with those qualities, then you ought to be drinking Pepsi, just like Santa and our friend the polar bear. Pepsi goes after Coke by directly trying to redefine their own symbols (Santa and the polar bear), by showing them crossing the line for Pepsi it makes it ok for “you” to cross that line too, it also suggests that coke is on the other side of the hip/fun/cool line.

What does Summer represent? A break from school or responsibilities, a time to let lose, have an adventure, to live life. If you want to embody those qualities drink Pepsi,  or maybe more poignantly if you think you’re a fun, hip, cool person and want others to see you that way, you better be drinking Pepsi.

While I appreciate the jab at Coke in this way, and I’m sure it has created a lot of buzz, I’m not sure if it’s an effective attack. Much like the McCain “Celebrity Ad” reinforced Obama’s message as it sought to undermine it, and was ultimately ineffective for that reason, these ads seek to subvert the strength of it’s opponent, but I think it actually reinforces it. Sure Santa and the Polar Bear switch to Pepsi, but we all know they belong to Coke, and frankly the execution of the ads, doesn’t really make me (though maybe the younger viewers it was intended to reach have a different reaction) believe the switch. It feels all too forced and contrived.


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