For the purpose of this marketing research, I chose Walgreens location on 1920 S Chelton Road, Colorado Springs CO 80916. I opted for the soda category and my goal was to compare product placement of Coca-Cola (Coke) and Pepsi Cola (Pepsi) in the drinks aisle. I expected both products to be side-by-side on the shelves since they are direct competitors and have similar tastes but to my surprise Pepsi and Coke bottles were placed quite afar from each other. Pepsi was surrounded by brands such as Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew and Coke was surrounded by brands such as Sprite and Fanta. At first, I got confused but when I checked Pepsi, Coke and other soda brands I realized that the brands next to Pepsi were also owned by Pepsi Cola Company and same was the case with Coke’s manufacturer who also owns Sprite and Fanta brands.
Both Pepsi and Coke are mass-produced and sold in almost every known country on the planet. Coca-Cola Company alone sells more than billion drinks a day worldwide (Yahoo! Voices). If unopened, Coke’ expected life is between 6-9 months (Eat by Date) and it is reasonable to assume that Pepsi has the same shelf life. Coca war between the two brands has been going on for at least a century and both brands have reinvented themselves several times through both marketing innovations as well as logo redesigns. Both Pepsi and Coke have updated their logos at least ten times since their beginning (Bhasin). Both Pepsi and Coke try to differentiate themselves on the basis of taste and this strategy is often reflected in the marketing campaigns pursued by both companies. The general perception is that Pepsi is a bit sweeter than Coke and Coke has sharper Cola taste (Wikihow).
Pepsi and Coke could be considered mid-range priced products. There are cheaper substitutes to Pepsi and Coke such as store-brands but their taste doesn’t have the same distinctive taste that Coke and Pepsi have. But Pepsi and Coke are high-volume products, thus, there are times when both brands are offered at discounted prices. Since Coke and Pepsi compete with each other, they keep a close eye on each other’s activities.
Pepsi and Coke have also never shied away from aggressive marketing campaigns and have used both print and electronic media as well as celebrity endorsements. The two brand have used almost every marketing media including TV, radio, and magazines and now social media is another part of their overall marketing strategy. Even though Pepsi is also fully focused on social media, Coke seems to be the winner so far.
As far as the Walgreens store that I visited is concerned, there was a Pepsi banner near the entrance while no such marketing material was found for Coke. It may be due to the fact that some of Pepsi’s products were on clearance since their expiration date was near or the company might have paid the store to promote its products.
In addition to on-site marketing, both companies use both electronic and print media to reach their targeted markets. Lately, social media has become an important part of both company’s overall marketing strategy because social media has been embraced by the general public and makes it easier and cheaper to reach the brand’s core customer groups. As of earlier this year, Coke was a stronger presence on the social media scene with both greater number of fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter than its historical rival Pepsi (Bhasin).
Both Pepsi and Coke are mass-market products that are aimed at the general public. This is why both brands have to respond to almost any change that occurs within one or more of its targeted customers groups. For example, both brands have replaced sugar with artificial sweetener is response to obesity crisis. Similarly, they have also introduced diet versions of their mainstream brands.
Since Pepsi and Coke target the general public, their goal is to make their products available as widely as possible including convenience stores, super markets, standalone vending machines, and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS etc. Walgreens has extensive retail network around the country and it is only natural that Pepsi and Coke products are made available at Walgreens.
Pepsi and Coke products were in the same aisle where one could also find snack food products such as chocolates, candies, dry fruits, and chips. It makes sense to put soda drinks in the same aisle as these products because soda drinks and some of these products such as chips are complementary goods.
Even though Coca-Cola seems to be winning the Cola War, Pepsi was more visible during my visit, thus, Pepsi has done a better job of promoting itself at this particular Walgreens location. Pepsi didn’t only have marketing material at the entrance of the store but also seemed to had greater shelf space than Coke. This experience once again proves the rivalry between the two brands and how they even use similar distribution channels in addition to similar production processes and promotional activities. Both brands have continued to update their logo over the years to refresh their image and could be considered mid-range priced products as they are more expensive than some of the entry-level substitutes including store brands. They also share the quality of using both electronic and print media to promote themselves including social media.
Bhasin, Kim. COKE VS. PEPSI: The Story Behind The Neverending ‘Cola Wars’. 4 January 2013. 29 April 2013 <http://www.businessinsider.com/coca-cola-vs-pepsi-timeline-2013-1?op=1>.
Eat by Date. Shelf Life of Soft Drinks. 29 April 2013 <http://www.eatbydate.com/drinks/how-long-does-coke-last-shelf-life-expiration-date/>.
Wikihow. How to Tell the Difference Between Coke and Pepsi. 29 April 2013 <http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-the-Difference-Between-Coke-and-Pepsi>.
Yahoo! Voices. A Quick History of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Soft Drinks. 13 September 2007. 29 April 2013 <http://voices.yahoo.com/a-quick-history-coca-cola-pepsi-soft-drinks-537657.html?cat=37>.