In the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, the long-lasting rivalry between two soft drink brands that are known as Coca-Cola and Pepsi has always been a heated topic of discussion for journalists, marketers, and brand managers. So what has both Coca-Cola and Pepsi done to leave a distinctive impression on their brand, despite their similar market shares and depiction of their never-ending rivalry through massive and well-reached marketing campaigns?


Coca-Cola was founded in 1886 through a concoction by pharmacist John Pemberton. Though it debuted on the market in the late 19th century, Coca-Cola has made an immense impact on the market and was well-received by many consumers. Their first outdoor advertisement was drawn in 1894. After 50 years since they were founded, Coca-Cola became the national symbol for the United States of America.

Pepsi came to life a little later, debuted on the market in 1893 thanks to pharmacist Caleb Bradham. The brand “Pepsi’ was registered on 16th June 1903. Since 1898, there have been many alterations made to their production.

For consumers, the taste in both drinks shares a lot of resemblance to each other. However, after careful evaluation, there are differences in their ingredients, which also contributed to their difference in taste. When comparing the nutrition label between both brands, Pepsi contains citric acid, while Coca-Cola doesn’t. 

Additionally, the sugar and caffeine content, along with the calorie count in Pepsi is higher, while the sodium salt in Coca-Cola is higher. Though most consumer’s taste buds, when consuming both products slowly, Pepsi has a stronger taste, while Coca-Cola has a much mellower taste, making it easier to consume. Based on this principle, from 2004 until now and with the exception of 2006, Coca-Cola’s net earnings surpassed Pepsi by a slight margin. Coca-Cola also surpassed Pepsi in the impacts of their marketing campaigns or market presence.


In the 80s, Coca-Cola was the standard drink that parents opt for whenever they want to calm their children. Through many decades, Coca-Cola has been extremely successful in marketing one line of products with little to no change. The company has also experimented with its products and launched “New Coke'' in the 80s, but it was to no avail. Since then, fear that has been prompted by the failure named “New Coke” has limited Coca-Cola from experimenting with new products, hence making the soft drink we know today and similar products to be the epitome of tradition, reliability, and the past.

Coca-Cola Company CEO Roberto Goizueta (left) and President Donald R. Keough toast each other with cans of "New Coke". (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

However, in 1985, Pepsi launched a marketing campaign with the purpose to “overtake” their rival, with the slogan: “The choice of a new generation”.

For brands, the logo is viewed as the brand’s identity and ambassador. Evidently, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have their own unique story to portray through their branding. While Coca-Cola remains consistent with its logo design since 1887, Pepsi has modified its logo 11 times through the course of 110 years.

The slogan is not only a tagline that’s purely created for advertisement campaigns; slogan plays a key role in shaping the brand’s long-term campaigns and overall branding. A good slogan can captivate the customer’s trust for the brand’s products. Therefore, businesses/brands typically come up with a lot of slogans before choosing the best one to represent them.

With that in mind, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have chosen slogans that are suitable for their vision and future development. The message from “Big Man” Coca-Cola focuses on eliciting heartwarming, classical, and comfortable feelings through some of these prominent taglines:

📍 It’s the Real Thing (1969)

📍 You Can’t Beat the Feeling (1988)

📍 Always Coca-Cola (1992)

Contrary to Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s marketing campaigns emphasize the message of sharing the moment, youth, and the future through some of these prominent taglines:

📍 Pepsi Now! (1983)

📍 The Choice of a New Generation (1984)

📍 Generation Next (1997)

Evidently, the difference between these two “Big Man” lies in their perception of life. While Coca-Cola focuses on the past and highlights the comfort, familiarity aspects in our life, Pepsi focuses on the refreshing aspect of the future and the youth.


In 2019, Coca-Cola has invested significant effort and funds in the global advertising campaign named: “Holidays Are Coming” in order to distinguish itself from other brands. Coca-Cola partnered up with Crisis, the national homeless charity in the United Kingdom, to initiate their Christmas Truck Tour, driving through 19 locations in the United Kingdom. It was their largest advertising campaign up to date. Effectively, this shows that the brand not only was able to purvey its central message through the traditional Christmas Truck but also was able to develop its global campaign.

Different from Coca-Cola, Pepsi chooses to amplify the voices of some of the hottest global influencers. In Christmas 2019, Pepsi has publicly partnered up with rapper Cardi B in the campaign “Gift if forward with Pepsi”.

In the promotional video, Cardi B was roleplaying as “Santa Claus”. With the 2019 campaign, Pepsi became a huge obstacle to Coca-Cola - who previously experienced immense success with their usage of Santa Claus in their Christmas campaigns.


Tet, or Lunar New Year, projects from “Big Man” Coca-Cola has always captured the attention of consumers through heartwarming, sympathetic, and comforting messages that were transmitted through meaningful, humanitarian, and delightful Tet advertising campaigns.

Though they have been loyal to their motto “preserving one’s core values”, Coca-Cola always tries to adhere to their creative liberty and explore various creative approaches to portray Tet in a variety of perspectives and formats, helping the viewers to fully resonate with every single moment during Tet.

In Tet 2021, Coca-Cola has published an advertising video that effectively captures the heartwarming and tight-knitted feeling of their brand. The video brought to the viewers the slogan “The simple things for a remarkable Tet” and attracted many consumers to watch.

On the other hand, Pepsi chooses a short yet meaningful message through the campaign “Bring Tet home”. The advertising video, titled “Nothing could have foiled you from going home”, was published in order to consolidate the current media campaign, with the appearance of several influencers such as Karik, Suboi, Wowy…

Overall, the video has received a lot of attention from the audience, garnering over 20 million views and 25 thousand likes on Youtube. Like their previous campaigns, Pepsi 2021 portrays the freshness, activeness, creativity, and trendy side of the youth.


For over a century full of competition, specifically from 1920 until now, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been recognized as two of the largest enterprises in the non-alcoholic drink industry. Though we can’t determine who is winning or will win nor when will this rivalry ever subside, we could definitively say that both brands have significantly contributed to the development of the beverages industry.

Through both brands, we were made aware that revolutionary ideas or contribution does not only come from collaborative work, but it could also stem from the rivalry between two different approaches. It is through rivalry that we see the motivation to prompt scientific researches in order to elevate the quality of the product, limit the consequences to the environment (sustainable development), or even expand our creativity, which can help us to convey more meaningful messages to the society.

>> So, are you #teamcoca or #teampepsi !!?

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Credits for API's Team:

Content: (in Vietnamese) Phuong Linh.

Editor: (in Vietnamese) Van Thanh.

Translation: (in English) Anh Khoa.

Cover photo: Tri Dung.


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Vị Coca-Cola thực sự khác Pepsi như thế nào? (n.d.). Retrieved January 06, 2021, from 

C., B., Ken C. Ken is a freelance writer currently living in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania. Born in California, B., B., G, B., & Admin, B. (2019, June 24). Coke vs. Pepsi: The Story Behind the Biggest Marketing Rivalry in History. Retrieved January 06, 2021, from