A Sip of the Social Soda Saga

February 6, 2013 by Logan Ice

A Sip of the Social Soda Saga

Think back almost 40 years—the year is 1975. Coke has as much of a grip on the Cola market as Band-aid has on the adhesive bandage market or Kleenex has on facial tissues. While the company had only been around for 10 years longer than the newly renamed Pepsi, it still owned the lion’s share of the market.

Pepsi did something unheard of at the time—they asked people what they thought. Crazy concept, I know. They did blind taste tests across the country in malls, grocery stores, etc… and guess what? People preferred Pepsi. They overwhelmingly did, in fact. By getting people involved, Pepsi was able to steal quite a bit of market share from Coke, and while Coke was still the #1 soda in the country, it was no longer the Band-aid of the Cola world.

Fast forward to 2013. Coke has had some wonderful success in the past with engaging, adorable, and memorable advertisements ranging from illustrated polar bears to Cee Lo Green relating opening a bottle of Coke to opening pure happiness itself. But that’s in the past. Recently, Pepsi has gained ground by going back to their roots—they’re getting people involved. As David Hatch said in a USNews article this past year, people are “getting groomed and conditioned to expect the world to come to them. “Pepsi has created multiple campaigns rooted heavily in social media that bring the focus back to the customer, including their #LiveForNow movement and their live updating “Pepsi Pulse” website.

Now to give you an idea of what this is like, imagine you’re a high school football star, and your little brother starts getting praise for his football talents. He’s getting all the attention and the cheerleaders want to talk to him instead of you. What would you do? Coke tried to do the same thing many of you are thinking—beat your little brother (Pepsi) at his own game. Coke designed an ad for the Super Bowl this year that was meant to do just that—involve the people via social media, the same strategy Pepsi has been taking advantage of for years. There was just one problem—they weren’t focused on the end consumer.

So what is this “end user focus” that Coke failed to keep in mind? As one of our core values here at GRA | MATR, we have a bit of experience with it. You have to remain focused on the people you’re targeting, and produce content relevant to them—not just something you “think” will help drive engagement. Coke failed to think about why people would care, and just produced an overly contrived “campaign” that left people wondering “Why?” It’s necessary to understand your customer before you just shoot information towards them, as well as to understand their cognitive intent. Think about it. The people most likely to respond to a social media campaign are the Millennials and the Gen Y’ers; the same people who have never even heard of Lawrence of Arabia, The Wild Bunch, Mad Max, or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. With this campaign, Coke tried to skip the strategy and just have a Social Media fueled campaign – and it fell disastrously short of their mark.

And in the end, Pepsi did what it does best—they responded with this simple 75-second video that they produced with popular Internet comedy group Funny or Die, repurposing the characters from Coke’s failed ad. Pepsi listened to their target audience, and responded in a way consistent with Radial Marketing–they gave their customer something they wanted to see at a time they were most receptive to seeing it. With all of the positive moves they’ve made recently, Pepsi has been making a big impact.

So now the question is—where do YOU see this rivalry going in the near future? We are the ones that drive Coke and Pepsi’s engagement in the Social Media Sphere—How do you see this playing out in the coming months and years?

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