Coke vs. Pepsi: A Scary Halloween Ad Campaign

This is a story about the perils of using your competition in advertising. It is also an excellent example of how brand advocates can save the day for you. Recently, Pepsi ran a social media campaign on their Facebook and Twitter pages that received a great deal of attention. With Halloween coming up, Pepsi thought it would be a cute idea to take a swipe at Coca Cola with the following image posted on social media:

Pepsi Dressed as Coke for Halloween

The text on the graphic simply says, “We wish you a scary Halloween!” The intention was obviously to offer the idea that being like Coca Cola for Halloween would be “scary”. The concept is not very strong in the first place. You might not have noticed at first glance that they purposely misspelled Coca Cola as Cola Coca on the cape so as to avoid the legalities with the swapping of the letters.

It didn’t take long for a response to immerge. However, the response came from a Coca Cola fan, not Coca Cola themselves or any ad agency.

Coke - Pepsi - Hero

The fan’s image text reads, “Everybody wants to be a hero!” Of course, this changes the idea that Pepsi isn’t wearing a “scary” cape for Halloween but is trying to be a hero – like Coca Cola.

This illustrates two key factors in advertising. If you are going to use even a likeness of your competition in advertising, it should be well thought out and clever. Coke and Pepsi and other rival companies often use each other’s’ names in commercials and other advertising; but when you do, you run the risk of rebuttal. In that case, you had better have a very fool proof idea because if your idea is outdone by the rebuttal, you lose. All the advertising budget and efforts can be a complete waste. The second factor is the strength of brand advocacy. In classic company rivalries like this one, consumers take sides and will defend their favourite. Play up to your strengths, tap and reward your brand advocates. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign with different names on their cans and bottles is a brilliant campaign that really taps into brand advocacy and gets individuals involved in promoting the brand for them. For soda companies, many consumers have a preference and will only drink one or the other. However, for those consumers who waiver between brands, seeing their name on a can of Coke, or even the idea that a 12 pack might have a can with their name on it is likely enough to sway their choice. Them when consumers do find a Coke with their name or one of the many generic names that they fit into, they will likely take pictures and share on their own social networks. It is a very smart campaign idea. What are your thoughts on Coke vs. Pepsi in advertising?

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