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What Pepsi Can Teach Us About Brand Identity

For more than 100 years, PepsiCo.and Coca-Cola have waged one of the fiercest corporate brand wars in the history of marketing. The two soft drink companies have long vied for the top spot in the global market for brown, fizzy, sugar water. Some consumers claim they can taste a difference between the two colas (and maybe they can), while others see soda as a commodity (and simply buy the cheapest option) – but shoppers actually choose their soft drink brand because of something much deeper than price or taste.

In an environment where the price of two similar products is identical, a brand’s identity can be the driving force behind a purchase decision. Buyers form serious relationships with brands, and some of these bonds are just as strong as those that we form with other people. That might sound a little far-fetched, but think about it: Whether you own a PC or a Mac, you probably have some kind of opinion of Apple computers, simply because you are familiar with the brand’s personality. Love it or hate it, you know the characteristics of the Apple image – as if the company was a living, breathing human being.

Consumers have similar attachments to almost every product imaginable – including something as simple as soda. Coca-Cola has formed an image as the essential American product – their ad campaigns generally depict a survey of Americana or the festivity of a traditional Christmas. Coke regularly releases “retro” editions of older product lines, such as the iconic glass bottle and the experimental New Coke flavor. Pepsi, on the other hand, has struggled to find itself, and has often been forced to follow Coke’s leadership (see Pepsi’s Coke-inspired callback of old-school, cane sugar soda). The soda pop has never had a consistent brand identity of its own.
But Pepsi may have found a formula that works for them. The company seems to have recently realized that if Coke is “timeless,” then Pepsi can be “timely,” as the modern, edgy cola brand. The new Pepsi “Live for Now” campaign features plaid hipsters living life to the fullest as Nikki Minaj croons her hit “Moment 4 Life.” While this branding strategy isn’t the most original concept, it stands in stark contrast with Coca-Cola’s antiquated Santa Claus.

Leonard Buchholz posted about the subject of advertising earlier this week on an ADM blog. This excellent post exposes how poor customer service can completely eliminate the benefits of advertising, but we disagree on one small point: Leonard opines that “customers don’t make a connection with an ad.” However, I believe that a vast majority of consumer relationships are developed through marketing campaigns – before the customer ever purchases.

Auto dealers should constantly be asking themselves, “What kind of personality do I want my store to have? Who are we?” Your shoppers form relationships with you long before they meet you – through your marketing campaigns, from something a friend told them, or from your website – and these impressions collectively make up your brand identity. Can you describe your dealership’s personality?
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Stephen is a social media specialist at ActivEngage, Inc. – the most trusted name in automotive live chat. Stay on top of our team’s marketing insights by subscribing to our blog.

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Comment by Stephen Jackson on May 25, 2012 at 8:02am

Thanks for the comment, Vicki. When I was interviewing for a job, I was constantly reminded of the importance of the first impression. Within the first few minutes of introduction, the people we meet make judgments about us that can last for the entire relationship. The same is true of our relationships with brands - and marketing/advertising is a way to make a great first impression. 

Comment by Vicki ONeill on May 25, 2012 at 7:45am

Great post, Stephen. A brand is perceived based on personal experiences as well as what a person sees/hears from others (media, social media, in person). It all boils down to customer service (the SMOT). Advertising (stimulus) reinforces what we already know about the brand (if engaged with a brand in one way or another) and sets the stage for making first impressions for "newbies" to the brand. Ultimately, customer service is the key driver in a brand's perception which fuels customers.  

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