Cola Wars

Cola Wars

The Cola Wars (a play on Cold War) was a campaign of mutually-targeted television advertisements and marketing campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s between soft drink manufacturers The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo.


Pepsi and Coca-Cola had/have different brands of soda competing with each other:

Type Pepsi version Coke version
Dark Cola


Diet / Low calorie

Diet Pepsi / Pepsi Light
Pepsi ONE
Pepsi Max

Diet Coke
Coca-Cola Zero
Coca-Cola Light
Low Carb

Pepsi Edge (discontinued)

Coca-Cola C2 (discontinued in USA)
Clear Cola

Crystal Pepsi (discontinued)

Tab Clear (discontinued)
Lemon Lime Soda

Sierra Mist
7 Up

Cherry Soda

Wild Cherry Pepsi

Cherry Coke
Orange Soda

Tropicana Twister

Minute Maid
Orange juice


Minute Maid
Iced Tea

Lipton Brisk

Nestea (manufactured by Nestle in the USA and by Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW), a joint venture between Nestle and Coca-Cola elsewhere)


Root Beer

Mug Root Beer

Sports Drink


Citrus Soda Mountain Dew
Mountain Dew MDX

Mello Yello
Surge (discontinued)

Pepsi Vanilla

Vanilla Coke

Pepsi Lime

Coca-Cola with Lime
Diet Coke with Lime

Pepsi Twist

Coca-Cola with Lemon (discontinued)

Marketing campaigns

Coca-Cola and Pepsi focused particularly on rock stars; notable soft drink promoters included Michael Jackson and Ray Charles (for Pepsi) and Paula Abdul, Elton John (for Diet Coke).


One example of a heated exchange that occurred during the Cola Wars was Coca-Cola making a strategic retreat on July 11 1985, by announcing its plans to bring back the original 'Classic' Coke after recently introducing New Coke.


Pepsi ads often focused on celebrities, choosing Pepsi over Coke, supporting Pepsi's positioning as "The Choice of a New Generation." Pepsi began showing people doing blind taste tests called Pepsi Challenge in which they preferred one product over the other, and then they began hiring more and more popular spokespersons to promote their products.

In the late-1990s, Pepsi launched its most successful long-term strategy of the Cola Wars, Pepsi Stuff. Consumers were invited to "Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff" and collect Pepsi Points on billions of packages and cups. They could redeem the points for free Pepsi lifestyle merchandise. After researching and testing the program for over two years to ensure that it resonated with consumers, Pepsi launched Pepsi Stuff, which was an instant success. Tens of millions of consumers participated. Pepsi outperformed Coke during the summer of the Atlanta Olympics - held in Coke's hometown - where Coke was a lead sponsor of the Games. Due to its success, the program was expanded to include Mountain Dew, and into Pepsi's international markets worldwide. The company continued to run the program for many years, continually innovating with new features each year.

The Pepsi Stuff promotion became the subject of a lawsuit. In one of the many commercials, Pepsi showed a young man in the cockpit of a Harrier Jump Jet. Below ran the caption "Harrier Jet: 7 million Pepsi Points." There was a mechanism for buying additional Pepsi Points to complete a Pepsi Stuff order. John Leonard, of Seattle, Washington, sent in a Pepsi Stuff request with the maximum amount of points and a check for over $700,000US to make up for the extra points he needed. Pepsi did not accept the request and Leonard filed suit. The judgment was that a reasonable person viewing the commercial would realize that Pepsi was not, in fact, offering a Harrier Jet. In response to the suit, Pepsi added the words "Just Kidding" under the portion of the commercial featuring the jet as well as changing the "price" to 700 million Pepsi points (see Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc.).

In 1985, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle on STS-51-F. The companies had designed special cans for use in zero G conditions. The experiment was classified a failure by the shuttle crew, primarily due to the lack of refrigeration and gravity.

Second Cola War

During the 1990s, a "second cola war" was reported in the United Kingdom. This time it was due to the launch of Virgin Cola, as well as Sainsbury's store brand Classic Cola, which, unlike most store brand colas, was designed to look like a top product worthy of competition. For a few years both colas were competitive with Coca-Cola and Pepsi; at one point Coca-Cola even sued Sainsbury's claiming the design of the Classic Cola can was too similar to Coke's. However, today, both Virgin and Classic Cola are far behind the two major brands. The high-publicity marketing also continued into the 1990s. In 1997 the Spice Girls (who were at the peak of their fame) signed a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Pepsi. They starred in three Pepsi commercials, released two limited edition singles with Pepsi; "Move Over" and "Step To Me", featured on Pepsi packaging and performed two live concerts in Istanbul organised and sponsored by the company.

Virtual Refreshment

Coca-Cola and Pepsi engaged in a "cyber-war" with the re-introduction of Pepsi Stuff in 2005 & Coca-Cola retaliated with Coke Rewards. This cola war is currently ongoing. Both are loyalty programs that give away prizes to product consumers after collecting bottle caps and 12 or 24 pack box tops, then submitting codes online for a certain number of points. However, Pepsi's online partnership with Amazon allows consumers to buy various products with their "Pepsi Points", such as mp3 downloads. Coca-Cola presently does not have a partnership like this.

See also



External links

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