Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Thirst among equals

The cola wars are an annual entertainment fixture. In April, both Coke and Pepsi launch their summer campaigns - and junta has one more topic to debate in canteens and commuter trains - kaun sa ad is better?

For years, in India, Pepsi was the more creative advertiser. Then, Coke and the Aamir-Ashutosh team came up with the 'thanda matlab' series. It was a runaway hit. Meanwhile, Pepsi struggled on, changing its winning 'dil maange more' tagline to the more literal 'yeh pyaas hai badi'.

This year, the tables turn once again. The Coke ads have lost their fizz. Aamir as Manno Bhabhi isn't getting wah-wahs. The sequel, where Aamir plays Manno bhabi AND the servant Dinu kaka is an even bigger damp squib.

Pepsi's 'Oye Bubbly' isn't winning universal accliam - but, it's got a catchy jingle. And Shahrukh Khan. In a world where celebrities wax and wane, Pepsi is lucky to have SRK on their side. A man who always seems to stay on the right side of the audience.

Does it matter?
At the end of the day, I don't think cola advertising really influences drinking habits. Based on taste, there are distinct preferences. I like Pepsi (sweeter, less fizzy), others may prefer Coke or Thums Up.

But at the end of the day if Pepsi is not available, for example at McDonald's, I'll take Coke instead. As would most cola drinkers.

What the cola wars do is keep interest alive in the category as a whole. What's more disturbing for cola companies is that their drinks are being perceived as unhealthy and/ or full of empty calories.

A recent survey conducted by JAM magazine asked junta (109 girls, 114 boys, aged 15-24) to complete the following sentence:
If I'm hot and thirsty I'll probably pick up a...

51% of the girls answered - Water!
Only 23% said 'soft drink', with nimbu pani and fruit juice coming in 3rd and 4th

On the other hand, 'soft drink' was the top choice for boys (37%) followed by water (24.6%), nimbu pani and (!) beer.

Reacting to the new wave of calorie consciousness. both Coke and Pepsi have introduced diet versions. Personally, I hate the after taste of diet drinks and would rather forgo the cola. But I know plenty of young people will be quite happy to go diet.

However, both Pepsi and Coke are getting into juice, and flavoured water - just to hedge their bets. If folks do actually shift from colas, they should shift to healthy drinks offered by them!

That's the reason Pepsi bought out Tropicana a few years ago for $ 3 billion (Coke owns Minute Maid). And they are also busy buying out juice and water companies in Europe.

In India, Pepsi and Lipton have introduced bottled ice tea. Amul has just launched 'spicy buttermilk' in a tetrapak (Rs 5 only). While Godrej has relaunched its almost-defunct XS brand with trendier packaging and exotic flavours.

The battle to quench our thirst just got hotter. Dil maange more (colas) or dil maange aur (healthier drinks) - that is the million rupee question. I think it will be a mix of both.

Variety after all is the spice of life. You know colas aren't 'good' for you but well, that's part of the attraction. All health and no fun would make Jai a dull boy, wouldn't it?


  1. Having been on the payrolls on one of the Cola giants.I had to post a comment here.

    Its true that Pepsi has always had the better jingles...except for the "thanda matlab..." campaign by coke but somehow Coca-Cola India retains the bigger market share.Just reiterates the fact that ads prolly fail to produce inclinations....atleast in this sector.

    as far as the health issue goes..i suggest u get your local municipality water or the fruits available at your local grocer tested in comparison !!!

  2. Pepsi India has not recovered from Vibha Paul Rishi's move to their HQ at Purchase (US). All the Marketing Heads following her, lacked the Fizz and Josh !! As an underdog, Pepsi India, under her had more visibility and tenacity than Coke.

    Meanwhile Prasoon Joshi's brand of creativity (lifting the everyday idioms from Hindi Hinterland) is proving to be a pain now...

    Its hightime now that the cola giants change their strategy of selling sugared water.

  3. This has just everything I need for my next presentation. Thank you :). Of course any usage shall be done with you being duly accredited for the same.

  4. All health and no fun would make "Jai" a dull boy.....
    thats truly Indian and a very hilarious quote created by you...have never heard this before...

  5. I wish I could watch the Pepsi commercials that are aired in India somewhere other than the internet. Because the SRK one is priceless.

  6. Among youngsters, these 2 brands hav beocme a life style. On health issues, there were campaigns in news magazines about drinking tender coconut than these colas.

  7. naya drink market mein 6 saal baad release hoga that is mix half pepsi half coke half fanta and then market it "copefa" any financers!!

  8. well..u jus need to do a simple pH test on ur fav cola to get a clearer picture on the "fun" side of consuming such drinks...

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