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Cola Wars losing fizz in Indian market

23-October-2004
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Cola Wars losing fizz in Indian market

Coca-Cola and Pepsi commercials have bombarded us with images of an array of subjects ranging from actors and cricketers to reflection of fun and masti, family togetherness and patriotism. So strong is the message that from Kasauli in the north to Mahabalipuram in the south and from a meek Rajasthani village market to a chic shopping mall in Delhi, Pepsi and Coke are present everywhere.

The relentless fight for marketshare amongst the duo has led to the biggest brand conflict in the history of business – the famed Cola Wars. The nearly century-old battle has thrown up interesting examples of brand and line extension. If Coke does Sprite then Pepsi takes out 7Up and Mountain Dew; if Pepsi has Aquafina, Coke dishes out Kinley; when Coke launches Vanilla Coke, Pepsi shows off Pepsi Blue.

A similar scenario is there in case of the advertising as promotion as well. If the Pepsi ad features Shahrukh Coke ties up with Aamir, if there is Sehwag for Coke then Sachin endorses Pepsi. The cola giants have always pitched the best or the latest against each other. Funny jingles, popular music, creating appeal by celebrities – the two have tried out everything to score over the other.

However, the war seems to be losing its fizz. The one-on-one take appears to be not as pronounced as before. Prasoon Joshi, Creative Regional Director, South East Asia, McCann-Erickson, said, “The sales dipped after the pesticide controversy. The main aim is now to get back our consumers rather than take on each other.” McCann-Erickson does the ad campaigns for Coca-Cola India.

Both the Cola companies were caught in the pesticide controversy when India’s Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claimed that their products manufactured in India contained chemicals far above the permitted levels and threatening to be toxic. However, Rohit Ohri, Senior Vice President and General Manager, JWT, is not convinced, “How will they (Coke) connect with the consumers if they don’t advertise?”

Questioned on the status of the cola war, Ohri said, “The Cola Wars have definitely fizzled out. Previously advertising was very heavy, Pepsi would take a dig at Coke and vice versa, the advertisements were funny and the consumers would enjoy them. But now there is no attack from Coke.”

Are so many celebrities, so many names, so many hit jodis leading to a clutter on the screen affecting the brand recall? “The brand is always bigger than the star. The star should never over power the brand. Stars are used for their talent and persona but the brand is the super star. If there are more stars in the ads now then it is better for the brand,” Joshi responded.

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