Pepsi vs. Coke

Uncategorizedon March 6th, 20096 Comments

Just recently, Pepsi came out with a new logo. This is no small event when you are talking about a brand as big and global as Pepsi. Here is the old logo:


Yes, in need of a lot of help. Completely over developed. There isn’t an angle that wasn’t highlighted or drop shadowed. So, definitely in need of some clean-up…

Now, here’s the new one:



THIS they should have never done. Is it supposed to be a smile? Or a large belly hanging out from underneath a red shirt? I’m not seeing the meaning behind the white negative space at all. The can design on it’s own is nice. Simple and clean. But the mark? The arc of the curves that define the negative space look too abrupt, forced and amateurish. 

Now, let’s contrast it with the excellent work on the redesigned Coke packaging:



They nailed it! This is EXACTLY what you do with an iconic brand. You get out of the way! You clean it up and simplify so that the brands unique visual cues stand out. Especially a global and historical brand that has so many wonderful unique brand flourishes (such as the script word mark, the “ribbon”, the red and white color palette and the hourglass bottle) The only thing wrong with the old can was that it had become OVER designed. The agency that did this – Turner Duckworth (one of my all-time favorites) – had the confidence to tell Coke that what it needed was not more or different, but less. The folks at Turner Duckworth must be having a huge laugh over this one. 

They took it a step farther with the other materials. Using simple silhouettes of the iconic bottle they created powerful visual reminders of the history of Coca Cola. It’s our history too. With a touch of whimsy. Here’s one:


Prior to the arrival of these two re-designs, I’ve used Coke and Pepsi in my presentations as examples of simplicity in creating an iconic and distinctive brand. My argument has been that a 2 color brand palette is stronger than a 3 color palette. Why? Well, for one the simplicity makes it more powerful. Coke is red and white. Pepsi is red, blue and white. Pepsi has too many colors! It’s too much like the american flag. Yet, the irony is that Coke is more “American” despite using red which has historically been associated with communism.

I would even ask myself “Dude, what would you do to improve the Pepsi visual brand?” My answer: I think it would be interesting to get rid of the red and just use blue and white. Blue is more strongly associated with Pepsi. Probably because it’s the differentiating color from Coke. Imagine what it would look like to go back and revisit some of the old design cues from Pepsi’s past and bring them back with a modern flair. But with blue and white. Worth looking at? I don’t know. Maybe blue is too sedate and lacks the power of red? I think there might be something there. Or maybe it’s a matter of how the colors are balanced? It would undoubtedly be a tough sell at Pepsi. 

Whatever they do they need more swagger. Cokes new direction shown above makes them look confident. They like who they are and are comfortable in their own skin. Pepsi looks insecure with this new look. They have always been a bit schizophrenic with the brand look. Changing things up every decade or so. This new logo just reinforces that perception.

My 2 cents. ;-)

6 Responses to “Pepsi vs. Coke”

  1. Andrew Mc P says:

    Great post.
    After staring at the Pepsi logo and trying to make a story as to why it looks as it does I have decided that it is a modern Ying and Yang. With red conveying heat as both temperature and the the extreme side of life that Pepsi strive to appeal to. The blue balances this by being refreshing and also cool, creating a logo that is both interconnected and independant.

  2. Michael L says:

    I’m so fascinated by all the Pepsi vs Coke stuff! I’ve always preferred Pepsi since I was like 3. I find the sweeter taste more satisfying. I also find that Coke gets flat faster, and that it has a strange after-taste I don’t notice in Pepsi. I think coke has less big bubbles, and Pepsi has more sharp fizz (smaller bubbles), but that’s just me. My generation (Y) seems to prefer Coke, so usually no one agrees with me when I bring up the old Pepsi vs Coke discussion. (Even though my region historically is very pro-Pepsi) I read once that the only generation that preferred Pepsi, (right before Coke won back the market with Coke II’s failure and the reintroduction of Classic Coke to recapture the market), was generation X, the generation right before mine. Was I born in the wrong time? LOL. I have also always noticed that difference in colour between the two, Pepsi being noticeably darker. As for the designs, I prefer Pepsi’s, and adore the new one, mostly because my fave colour is blue. I love simplicity in design. I’m kind of logo obsessed, so I researched the 5 or 6 designs of Pepsi’s brand, some only slight changes, since I was born to see which I preferred. I seem to like the early 90′s one, and the current one the best. But since the late 80′s, before I was born, Pepsi has used 4 colours really, not three. Even though it’s sometimes not very noticeable, there are two distinct shades of blue in all their latest logos. (Their earliest logos being only red, or only red, dark blue and white) The reason I loved their logos from 1973-1991 approx. is that they had that little bit of fresh and reFRESHing light blue on the side! It’s hidden in the PEPSI font on some newer logos or as a highlight to the PEPSI ball in others, and on the newest one it is the shade of blue on the ball, with the darker shade being the base can/label colour. To reiterate, I’m glad that BOTH Pepsi and Coke decided to simplify their branding. I too wondered why the white band in Pepsi’s logo was so crooked, and why it changed on each of their products individual logos. Thinking of the “Pepsi-Challenge” and other taste tests, and what rich americans seems to think of Pepsi, Coke has a brand / advertisement bias. Most people when taste testing prefer Pepsi, a lot of people say they prefer Coke when they know what they’re drinking because they think of it as “cooler”, more “retro”, the more “mature/sophisticated” drink, or whatever. Coke wins the biggest share of the cola market because, like you said, their logo is “better”, being more simple and less awkward and unsure of itself, it grabs more people. (Also their ads with the polar bears at X-mas… so cute!… and so delicious looking!) It has also been historically slightly more famous world-wide. Coke is so defined, and timeless.. while Pepsi in comparison seems like it’s always desperately grasping for more popularity by trying to hard to seem young and cool. It needs to go back to the classic look if you ask me.. Maybe that would get it more respect from my vintage-obsessed generation. Anyways, at least there will always be people like me, supporting Pepsi even though their friends think it’s uncool, has a weird logo, or whatever. I like Pepsi because of the taste period. I don’t support the brand, I support the drink. If we all thought this way, there would be no use for mind-bending advertising. Like in “Invention of Lying”, we’d taste it the first time, and like it forever. We’d keep buying it because we know the taste and we love it, not because it was recommended by the company or by someone we know. If we weren’t swayed by others opinions, and the want to fit in, there’d be no ad industry! Well, maybe just to acknowledge a product’s existence. “This is coke, it’s a cola drink. Try it. If you like it, maybe you’ll buy it again, and you’ll be happy, and we’ll make money. Thank you for listening.” :)

  3. Bob Nenninger says:

    Thanks Michael. Interesting insight.

    Your comments show just how important the brand is. In the case where you have two commodities, such as colas, that are similar in taste, the brand becomes paramount. Which cola tastes better is pretty much irrelevant. In this case, Coke has the brand that people want to associate with. It them becomes all about symbolism and emotion.

    I would even argue that you would be able to find a generic soda that tastes better to you than Pepsi. However, you would likely not want to buy that brand anyway because of your attachment to the Pepsi brand. You wouldn’t want to walk around carrying some supermarket generic because that brand wouldn’t fit you like Pepsi does.

    That is why so much effort and money goes into building a brand. Often times the brand itself is more valuable than the sum of it’s parts.

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