Responsible Marketing

Coke v. Pepsi: Refreshingly irresponsible

By January 2, 2009July 23rd, 20209 Comments
pepsi versus coke

Coke and Pepsi are at it again.

They battled it out on New Year’s Eve in Times Square with Pepsi revealing it’s new Refresh Everything campaign while Coke introduced it’s Refresh. Recycle. Repeat. green campaign, wind-powered billboards and all.

Here’s Pepsi’s New Year Eve video:

Both campaigns are refreshing, but that’s the problem.

By using the word “Refresh,” either Pepsi or Coke is breaking rule #6 of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

I don’t know who claimed the word “refresh” first, but the company that claimed it second is guilty of irresponsible marketing.

If you know who claimed “refresh” first, or if you just want to show your Coke or Pepsi allegiance, comment below.

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Could it be that “great minds think alike”? Two teams in two cities looking at the world today and coming up with the same word for products in the “refreshment’ category…totally possible to me. Unfortunate, but not irresponsible.

  • I may just be a die-hard coke fan in denial BUT even if Pepsi hit the road with ‘refresh’ first they’re riding coattails of the Obama-train with their look-alike ‘refreshed’ logo and message vibe.

    While that may not be the dictionary definition of irresponsible, it sure ain’t all that original. It’s just plain ‘me too’.

    And frankly – as both a consumer and a marketing member of the self-employed – I actually find it offensive: I want to engage with products, brands and companies that really do stand for the values their campaigns appeal. Anything else (which is what standard ‘positioning’ is, right?) now feels like what matters most is being played for a buck.

    And that does feel irresponsible, dictionary or not.

    Which is why the whole conversation about responsible marketing matters to me in the first place.

  • Jerry,

    Great minds, sure. But I disagree.

    It’s the marketer’s job to make sure a company, product or service’s positioning is unique.

    You simply can’t stake a claim that’s already been staked.

  • MIa says:

    I agree w/Lissa Boles. Each time I saw the Pepsi commercial during the game today, I thought of the Obama campaign. Though they didn’t actually use the word “change,” they co-opted the full feel of the Presidential campaign. I wanted to say “do you think I’m that dense; that I won’t figure that out?”


  • Peter Weissenstein says:

    Patrick –
    I agree with Jerry. It is possible that the agencies for both companies came up with the idea of using Refresh separately and that they were approved separately. Remember the old adage – “does Macy’s tell Gimbels?” Neither company has a “responsibilty” to pull an ad with similar wordage if they did not know about the other company’s ad. How the ads themselves end up playing out – that’s another story. Each advertiser will probably take a slightly different road in the actual presentation hence the messages will be different. As to the claim that you can’t stake a claim that’s already been staked – well then, if Coke existed before Pepsi then Pepsi should stop making cola, no one should be making sliced white bread other than Wonder Bread, there should be only ONE social networking site, and so on. RC and all generic cola manufacturers etc. should also stop making colas. After all – it’s Coke’s stake. If the two campaigns do not fly the public will let the companies know. That’s the true arbiter and the marketing department’s job.

  • Peter,

    Totally understand your point, but I’m not talking about staking a claim for an entire category—that’s next to impossible anyway.

    I’m talking about brand positioning and the marketer’s responsibility to make a company, product or service to stand out from its competition.

    Nordstrom = Service
    Volvo = Safe cars

    Anyone else trying to stake that claim looks like a poser.

    With two marketing juggernauts like Pepsi and Coke, I’d never expect this to happen.

  • Irresponsible? Eh, maybe not so much, but I’d go more towards lazy and totally lacking creativity. It’s like when we were kids and someone comes up to you and says “you smell like poo.” (Or trade that for something more creative, whatever.) And you can either come up with a better come back or say “No YOU smell more of poo!”

    And with these campaigns it’s like who can be more “refreshing.” They might as well say “No, Coke (or Pepsi – we still don’t know who was first) I’m refreshest time a million blackout.”

    Someone needs to kick their creative department in the butt and tell them to get, uh, creative. Being such major corporations who have the same product, you need to seriously differentiate yourself from the competition. I would stay as far away from those same verbs as possible.

  • Actually, I was thinking this over, as I was cleaning my kitchen, and I said earlier that it wasn’t irresponsible. I take that back. Someone’s advertising company isn’t doing their homework to know their client’s competition and to set their client apart from them (or they are and, as I mentioned, are just being lazy). And they continue taking their client’s money in the meantime and that is completely irresponsible.

  • Cokefan says:

    Well, just as a matter of pure fact, Coke used it first and has been using refresh in it’s slogans since 1900. In fact, it owns the trademark on the word and I’m pretty sure Pepsi and Chiat know it, so I’d just chalk it up to Hack creatives. Even in this instance, Coke is doing something, while Pepsi has no substance. Way to go.

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