Remember The Pepsi Challenge? I Do…

You know the whole story: Pepsi finds itself in a market that it’s outsold by store brands of cola. Pepsi, free of the “Brand X” advertisement rules that had ruled the airwaves until then, does a taste-test comparison between it and Coke. Lo and Behold, Pepsi beats Coke in the taste tests (complete with testimonials) both there (in Dr Pepper Country, let me add) and nationwide. Eventually, they stare Coke down and Coke changes its formula…only to find it has to return to the “old” formula which was getting beaten by Pepsi. But now the rules have changed: Pepsi can’t do their taste test anymore, and Coke goes on (as Coca-Cola Classic) to redevelop itself as America’s Cola.

Now, here’s the rest of the story:

  1. I remember finally doing the “Pepsi Taste Challenge” back one July 4th in the early eighties, when the Taste Challenge still had power. I also remember that the Pepsi had just come out of a cooler and the Coke was a few degrees above outdoor temperature. Needless to say, I chose Pepsi and thought nothing about that selection.I have to wonder how many others got a similar taste test: Cold Pepsi vs Lukewarm Coke? And how many people let themselves get snookered by this?
  2. I remember the reaction to the change with some distance, as I had started drinking a mix of Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper from a nearby Seven Eleven by that time. I thought it odd, after all it was just a soda pop.This in some ways because, having heard for a year and a half (and finally succumbing to the whining) about how we should boycott Coke to get them to divest from South Africa, I no longer drank Coke. I (and probably a lot of others) commented about how it would be picking one company over another, as everyone had probably invested in South Africa; soon we heard how Pepsi started divesting.

    Soon enough, Coke came up with a way of divesting directly in South Africa without losing the market — sell the company to the employees. Some of the more shrill boycotters declared the boycott not over, most of us stopped listening. After all, did Pepsi REALLY disinvest in South Africa? And besides, while there was some good done (ownership given to a wider group), it was an accidental benefit, not something intended.

  3. What the Coke Brouhaha did was expose what a farce the Taste test was. After all, if there was a nationwide rebellion against Coke “bettering their beverage,” then was it really that bad? And, more to the point, can you say Pepsi is even better than Coke?Of course, Pepsi fans will say “of course Pepsi is better than Coke” and Coke fans will say “Never! Coke is better than Pepsi always!” Thing is, there isn’t really enough of a difference to matter to most people.

    That’s right; most people pick pops because of other reasons.

    Maybe it’s because of Micheal Jackson shilling for Pepsi back in the early eighties (Pepsi Drinker). Mabye it’s because of what Michael Jackson became later on (Coke Drinker). Maybe it’s because it’s what you dad drank (Depends on him and his drink) Maybe because you thought their version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was better than the original (Mountain Dew). Maybe you like different labels every time you grab a pop (Jones Soda).

    Thing is, taste is not a major factor. Never will be.

Oh, so what was I drinking back then? A mix of Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew. Had what I thought was a better flavor than either Pepper or Dew. And besides, it’s not like anyone was about to try and reproduce that flavor.

Or so I thought…

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