Sunday, March 8, 2009

The cola wars continue

When in doubt go back to basics.

This might be a line out of the marketing plans for both Coke and Pepsi as their 'natural' campaigns start to see some daylight. The proverbial stake in the ground this time seems to be kicking it old school.

Coke's decided to bring out the original personality. It's dropped the "Coca-Cola Classic" moniker, going back to the "The Real Thing" we've seen on and off for centuries. Boasting no artificial flavours or colours, talking about glass bottles and the mystery of their 1886 secret formula, we're seeing a less exciting/over-the-top side of Coke but something more genuine and relevant.

With Pepsi, they're launching Pepsi Natural (and it's coming to North America). This is a version of the world's second favorite cola with real sugar, rather than the High Fructose Corn Syrup that makes up a big portion of the liquid found in both cola brands. Besides the fact that HFCS is a blacklisted product for most health conscious consumers, not to mention a diabetics arch nemesis, it's also what helps keep these colas priced low (compared to what I don't know). A plus for consumers - this stuff actually tastes better and leaves the palette with a "smooth" feeling. Pepsi tends to bottle up branches of its brands for short sprints in the market, but you can't help but wonder if Coke or Pepsi have moved in their own directions as a result of each other.

If you look back over the history of these two brands fighting in market, their advertising is a great reflection of pop culture and consumer mindset. So you can't help but wonder if these two moves are another reflection of that environment. There has been a push towards natural, organic and healthy alternatives in many consumer minds (especially mid to high end consumers) and niche market sodas have capitalized - cutting into the market with a unique personality and the stamp of natural flavors to tie into this growing consumer mindset. Both Coke and Pepsi have left this type of messaging on the back burner, instead pursuing lifestyle advertising, sports endorsements, and high-buzz stunts. In the midst of delivering the ad some of their brand basics have been lost to the consumer.

Another point might be that in a time where consumers are eyeing corporations through a larger lens, the new campaigns may reflect the effort to be more financially, environmentally and/or health conscious. This might be a bit far fetched but stranger things have happened.

So the cola wars continue - another chapter in history defined by the mass advertising of the world's cola behemoths. I'll be in line to buy a real sugar Pepsi and I always prefer my coke in a glass bottle (it does actually taste better).