LOOK-IN 2013: An exciting year ahead for Pepsi and Coke

02 Jan,2013

By Amit Bapna


2013 is set to be an exciting year for colas, what with Pepsi stepping into role of title sponsor at IPL, Coke celebrating two decades in India (and almost certainly thinking of ways to derail its competitor’s official sponsor status), and Thums Up now backed by serial Bollywood hit-man Salman Khan. However the excitement around the category and its appeal to the youth is of an even earlier vintage as the first edition of Most Exciting Brands proves. (The Most Exciting Brands survey findings are published in the Brand Equity section of The Economic Times dated January 2, 2013 – Editor)


The findings of the first ever Most Exciting Brands survey reaffirm that in spite of supposedly sexier categories like mobile phones and tablets, excitement about colas continues unabated. Three cola brands feature in the Top 5 rankings: Coca-Cola emerges as the most exciting brand followed by Pepsi at 3 and Thums Up at 5.


Not bad for a category that was created way back in 1886, when Atlanta-based pharmacist Pemberton stirred up a fragrant, caramel-colored liquid and combined it with carbonated water. As per legend, the concoction initially sold a measly 9 glasses at five cents a glass for almost a year. Today Pemberton’s creation, famously known as Coca-Cola, is a ubiquitous brand, selling in over 200 countries and all set to celebrate 20 years of its return to India after being exiled from the country in the late 1970s.


Competitive brand battles are nothing new, but few have been waged as consistently as the cola wars. To the people working on these brands, there is seemingly never a dull moment. Says Santosh Padhi, cofounder, Taproot India, “In a category like this, where the product is not there to sell (unlike a mobile where the features are being sold) what is being pushed is the imagery and all three brands have done a damn good job, when compared to any other category.”


The cola brands have been on a journey of constant reinvention, building their brands around cultural references, including cricket, football, adventure, music and films.


Says Tanuka Ghoshal, assistant professor – marketing, Indian School of Business, “For a low involvement product that’s often purchased on impulse, and where brand loyalty is typically low, sales thrive on one and only one thing: salience and top-of-mind recall.” In her view, this is what leads to a category that is overactive with each brand vying to outdo the other on share of voice and consequently share of mind. The brands strive to achieve this through a plethora of exciting and creative campaigns.


For Coca-Cola, the leader of the pack in this survey, what worked well was the insight of integrating the brand with popular culture, through its campaigns and on-ground properties, informs Anupama Ahluwalia, VP – marketing, Coca-Cola India. Campaigns like “Ummeed wali dhoop, sunshine waali aasha” that exhorted people to believe in a “better tomorrow”, followed by the summer campaign, which profiled cricket as India’s most loved sport and featured the iconic Sachin Tendulkar, and finally the Coke and meals campaign, which spoke of happiness around mealtimes, seem to have worked well for the brand in creating buzz.


Pepsi positions itself as “a curator of pop culture across the world.” The excitement has been kept alive by carrying forward it’s iconic ‘Change The Game’ plank shares Homi Battiwalla, EVP – Colas, Hydration & Mango Drinks, PepsiCo India. The campaign re-energised the brand. In 2012 the same central thought was carried forward in all communication.


Piggybacking on the growing popularity of football as a sport in India, Pepsi created campaigns that set the world’s most popular sport against cricket and cricketers. The first commercial ‘Ab badlega game’ featured the brand ambassador Ranbir Kapoor arguing with a young football fan about why cricket is better. The other campaign featured cricketers and footballers playing against each other – Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres against Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh.


The idea was to showcase the possibilities in a country which is cricket-mad but also very football-interested. For the T20 series that was held in Sri Lanka, the campaign was all about “Na tameez se khela jata hai na tameez se dekha jata hai” (roughly translated as the rules of the game have changed – it is no more played or viewed in the same decent manner as it was done earlier). All the campaigns have the same irreverence and tongue-in-cheek tonality.


Views Samir Gupte, president, OgilvyAction, the brand activation arm of the Ogilvy Group, “While advertising tries to create imagery for these brands non-traditional media, be it activation, events (sporting and others) or concerts help build differentiation and association with the brands especially in this category.” Come 2013, Pepsi is set to jump headlong into its IPL association as the title sponsor.


Thums Up is one brand that has been keeping the testosterone levels high with its macho star associations – on TV and print as well on ground. The signing of Salman Khan as brand ambassador in 2012 has worked particularly well, especially with his dream run at the box office with Ek Tha Tiger and Dabbang 2. Prior to Khan coming onboard, the brand used the South-based star Mahesh Babu as its face with the campaign Aaj kuch toofani karte hain (let’s do something exciting today).


The challenge for all these brands is to adapt to a world in which one-way communication is giving way to two-way consumer engagement and participation. Shares Samyak Sanjoy Chakrabarty, chief youth marketer, DDB Mudra Group, India, “It would be harakiri to take this target audience for granted, and that’s why the cola brands are always engaging with them whether through presence at the key touch points such as canteens, bars, college events, or live events and properties like the Coke Studio etc, which ensure top of mind recall.”


In this task, the role of digital and social media is pivotal. Today’s youth is consuming multiple screens and brands are cognisant of this reality. Different brands are doing this with varying degrees of success and engagement. For instance, Pepsi’s football campaign generated a huge volume of conversation on social media – it reached out to more than 150+ million users online and garnered close to 570 million impressions across all platforms. Pepsi T20 Football Facebook activation got 2.5 million engaged users and added 1 million new fans. The way forward for cola companies, will be to invest extensively in creating experiences that allow on-ground activation and digital media to converge seamlessly.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


Related Stories

  • No Related Stories Found
Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.