Coke vs Pepsi: Soda and national identity

This fascinating map recently came to my attention. It shows the strong regional differences in the way Americans refer to ‘soda.’ There is a large ‘pop’ zone extending across the mid-West, while the South is ‘Coke’ country – appropriately enough since Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta. California is a soda zone, and there is a curious cluster of soda-speakers around St. Louis Missouri.

In the map pop is blue, coke is red and soda is yellow/green.

Coca cola would have liked everyone to be singing on the same page, but its bid for global hegemony has failed.

Many countries around the world have proudly defended their indigenous colas. Examples include Inca Kola in Peru (actually founded by an Englishman in 1935).

In Russia the Ni Kola (No Cola) company has been marketing kvas, a traditional non-alcoholic beer type drink, as an anti-American beverage.

This ad shows what happens when Dad returns home having started to drink Coke. The expert says “No to cola-nization. Kvas is the health of the nation.”

In this ad the man, speaking in bad Russian, lists the benefits that the US has given to the world, and says that kvas is uncivilized.

India saw the introduction of Thums Up cola in 1977 after Coke gave up trying to market its own products in the face of protectionist barriers. In 1990 Pepsi entered India, and in 1993 Thums Up was bought out by Coca Cola.This ad nicely connects Thums Up to the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.

Coke uses Thums Up to attack Pepsi. Here is an anti-Thums Up ad from Pepsi.

I think the ad is making fun of the Thums Up commercials which show their hero doing dangerous stunts.

I addressed the question of Beer and Nationalism in an earlier post. For an update on this important theme, see this posting on beer commercials and the preparations for ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.


1 thought on “Coke vs Pepsi: Soda and national identity

  1. It is really intriguing how such trivial things turn into national icons in the hands of business tycoons and the hype on each of their marketing goes to the extent of distorting the national entity as well as the notion of imported items of the first world. Coming of coke to India was a part of our teen age tension, a lot of expectation and then a great disappointment so far as the taste was concerned! The devout Thumps up drinkers lament for the lost zing the moment it was brought under MNC collaboration! Taste of a country is usually part of its culture. Not that any foreign formula , or even a global formula for any drink is impossible, yet, the fight over coke and pepsi stands, in all probability,not on their taste, but much on their advertisement and sales promotion. Shops which can keep pepsi, cannot keep coke and other allied products which seems rediculous , yet true about any small road side kiosks in India- in fact they sale the cold drinks most.
    The pepsi-cola fight in India a few years ago went to the level of image destruction and sensitized the common market to such extent that an anti-coke-pepsi mood had been ensued. School children are still given , kind of moral education against these drinks with dark colours having carcenogenic components etc and sale of completely indian mango based drinks, like frooti or maaza are encouraged instead. Yet, in the commercial market dynamics, both pepsi and coke are unfolding their unhindered sway- for third world countries, like India, with a huge consumer potential, they are equally alien and therefore equally welcome! They bring in a slice of the first world that can reach the farthest corner of the country , making the feel of global vilage a palpable reality!
    A few years ago, there was a serious film titled “Corporate” was made to portray the fight over the pepsi-cola houses and how it affected thier employees.
    In prize winner German film, “Good Bye Lenin, “, there was a very interesting insight over a banner o coke, that symbolized the end of East German Republic………
    Thus, for the countries who are takers of these consumer items, these act as icons of globalization, not nationalism of any brand as such.

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