The trouble with Coke and Pepsi.

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coca beans

Rant time. My bad, it’s Friday. Pepsi’s sales, it was reported yesterday, were weaker-than-expected caused by lower soft drink sales in North America. Interestingly, Pepsi Cola just finished a big brand redesign which was well received by the design, advertising and brand planning communities; the latter community acknowledging the work at the recent Jay Chiat Awards in NYC. I am a dissenter when it comes to this new Pepsi strategy, which revolves around the idea “Refresh.” Pepsi’s strategy celebrates refresh more for the computer definition than the thirst-quenching definiton. Hello? Is anyone paying attention? Refreshment is Coke’s strategy.

Anyway, both Coke and Pepsi — but Coke in particular — need to focus advertising not on culture but on the ability for colas to truly quench a thirst. Nothing in the world can quench a thirst like a Coke. It creates a jolt, a satisfying, smile-provoking recoil for the thirsty drinker. Here’s a test strategic account planners: get out of the building and walk a trail in the hot sun for 8 hours. Have someone meet you at the trail’s end with a Coke in one hand a Gatorade in the other. See which your arm reaches for. (Only physicists will grab a Gatorade.)

Colas are under fire from waters, energy drinks and teas. They need to fight back. And fight back with all the syrupy, coca-ey, carbonation demonstrations at their disposal. Cola growth in the third world is strong because those consumers know that Coke and Pepsi refresh like nothing else. In the US we’ve lost sight of that. Come on people, stop over-thinking this stuff. Cultural refresh indeed! Peace.