The cola brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi have long battled it out to be the soft drink of choice, with millions of US dollars spent annually on advertising campaigns including lucrative tie-ins with celebrities as well as their never-ending domination of the international drinks market. Despised by health campaigners for their high sugar content and loved by thirsty people everywhere, the two kings of cola have become an inescapable part of modern consumerist culture.
Dating from the 19th century and originally developed as a medicinal product, Coca-Cola has historically usually retained the dominant market share over Pepsi, although Pepsi has long challenged this with a flurry of highly successful marketing campaigns, including the infamous ‘Pepsi Challenge’ of the 1980s, in which members of the public were invited to sample Pepsi and other colas in a blind taste test in the hope that they would inevitably find Pepsico‘s flagship product the better-tasting. The televised taste tests involving random strangers in shopping malls lead to a very tough skirmish in the Great War of Fizzy Pop fought between the company and arch-rival Coca-Cola-Schweppes Inc, which did earnestly helped Pepsi capitalise on the lift it got from its promotions involving the late pop singer Michael Jackson.
The fact that both Coca-Cola and Pepsi are now positioned as an integral cause-and-effect on our lives now has not gone unnoticed. Apart from being blamed for adding fuel to the fire in the obesity crisis affecting developed countries, a report by mercantile magazine Business Insider claims that consumption of cola can even affect, or at least make a statement on, how successful you are in life, from your academic and employment prospects, to the kind of friends you keep.
Now doing the rounds on Twitter, the Business Insider article (published in 2011) quotes from a study that claims with near-scientific precision that drinkers of Coca-Cola are more likely to have graduated from university (college) than Pepsi drinkers. They are more likely to be multilingual, which might explain why Coca-Cola is very popular in multi-ethnic localities and in countries where several languages are spoken.
The report, by a technological research company named Hunch.com and sent out from their HQ in New York City, also claims Coke drinkers have more varied and ‘middle-class’ tastes in food. They are more likely to plump for exotic munches like sushi and caviar, while at least in my experience, any east Londoner can tell you that Pepsi works wonders with a side of chicken burger and chips. Not surprisingly the report claims that Pepsi drinkers are more insular in their snack choices, at least in America, where their meal of the day is overwhelmingly American cuisine. You can appreciate the international mindset of Coke drinkers further, as the report further claims that they are six more times likely to own a passport than the less well-travelled consumer of Pepsi. In fact, the average Pepsi drinker may have not seen the inside of a plane or coach in at least six months.
Not only are Coke drinkers more likely to be educated to tertiary level on average but they are more likely to be popular with their future boss as well. The average Coke drinker will have a marked tendency to show up early for interviews or the start of the working shift, whereas Pepsi drinkers will either breeze in at the exact time or even show up late, which might not do their employment chances much a load of good.
In the US again, the discerning Coke fan chooses more intricate reading material for leisure and news, preferring to read the New York Times on their lunch breaks at the sushi bar, while Pepsi pickers will leaf through something tabloidy like USA Today.
It’s not just what they eat or read that is vastly different. Coke and Pepsi drinkers have very different attitudes towards entertainment too. A Coke consumer will more likely be hanging out at the art gallery, theatre or some other cultural venue appreciating the intellectual and informative, while Pepsi drinkers are more inclined to stay at home, drape over the sofa and watch the flicker of a plasma screen, with a cold glass of the blue-labelled cola-nut infused stuff in hand no doubt. Ironically many places of interest will not allow any soft drinks to be consumed on their premises.
Speaking of television, the report also shows a differences in the viewing habits of American coke lovers. The average Coke drinker will watch more mentally-involving shows like CSI and David Sedaris, while Pepsi drinkers prefer light entertainment and chat shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Ellen DeGeneres.
The research certainly has thrown up some interesting facts about these two very different classes of soft drinks consumers, but it is also a snapshot of how brand affinity is welded to socio-economic group in the north American continent, even though Coke and Pepsi are more or less the same product in different coloured packaging. What it also reminds us as well is that how people have now defined themselves, their personalities and their outlooks using brands as the pegs to construct popularity and societal acceptance. Consumers are now using brands as markers of self-definition, as advertising becomes more inescapable in the ‘Internet age’.
For those who are curious as to whether this article’s author prefers Coca-Cola or Pepsi… normally I prefer Coke, but when I am eating a fiery curry or sweltering in 30*C-plus heat, I honestly do not care.
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