Top Dog vs. Underdog


20030808 COKE VS PEPSI


Hello again readers,

My next assignment focuses on “top dog” brands versus “underdog” brands and the branding strategies they have implemented. For today’s post, we will discuss the rivalry of Coke vs. Pepsi.

First, we need to identify the top dog and the underdog. According to NBC NewsCoke continues to dominate the soft drink market, owning 17 percent more market share than Pepsi. Additionally, Diet Coke ranks number two, before Pepsi finally comes in at number three (n.d.). Further, claims that “coke has managed to become the more successful company and to remain the top American soda icon” (2014, 7:05). This, sadly,  leaves Pepsi as the underdog.

What have they done differently? Let’s first focus on their branding strategy. Coke was first released in 1886 giving the company the advantage of a proactive strategy, or being the first to market. Pepsi was introduced in 1898 following with a reactive strategy and an attempt to be a direct alternative (NBCNews, n.d.;, 2014). Coke had the advantage of their “secret recipe.” Coke uses a mass marketing strategy in an attempt to include everyone in their target market. Additionally, the company has announced that they are focusing on creating a unified brand and highlighting the soft drink’s iconic appeal. They seek to use functional and emotional messaging to display what the company stands for (Moye, 2016).

Pepsi has struggled with their branding over the years, many times attempting to reinvent themselves. However, from the 1980’s Pepsi has taken a more segmented approach and targeted the younger generations (NBCNews, n.d.). Pepsi continues to promote messages, taglines, logos, and advertisements that are aimed at this younger market. They often use digital marketing channels and campaigns in an attempt to reach this market. The company has also taken many initiatives in an attempt to increase their brand image, such as philanthropy work in India (Pandey, 2015).

So what are some ways that Pepsi can improve their strategy to increase their market share and surpass Coke? First, Pepsi could focus on disrupting the status quo. I.e. they need to disrupt the strong brand identity that Coca-Cola has created and encourage customers to “challenge their current beliefs” about the brand (Kardes et al., 2012, p. 84). Pepsi may be able to demonstrate this through a blind taste-test or through free samples.

Another recommendation for Pepsi is to change their scope. Shifting or changing their segmentation approach may prove to help the company gain market share. For example, they may be able to target a segment that Coke is neglecting, capturing that market share. Taking another look at possible and unlikely targets could prove successful (Kardes et al., 2012).

Pepsi may also try rejuvenating their brand by focusing on developing a positive brand response. That is, the feelings and judgments customers have about the brand. To increase positive responses the company must focus on consistent quality and positive customer experiences. Pepsi should also promote what it is that differentiates themselves from Coca-Cola (Kardes, et al., 2012).

Why do consumers prefer Coca-Cola? Well, my personal assumptions are that it stems from a sense of nostalgia. Coke has done a thorough job creating and keeping this sense of “America’s favorite soda.” Additionally, I think that customers become very brand loyal and, in Pepsi’s case, it makes it extremely hard to take any of that market share. Finally, Coke does have a very distinct flavor, and I believe that those who like it, stick with the brand. This again makes capturing this market share difficult for competitors.

Myself, I much prefer the taste of Coke to Pepsi. For me, it is all because of the simple fact that I like their product. I continue to consume it because I enjoy it and Pepsi just can’t compete in my book.

What about you? Which product do you prefer and why?







Kardes, F., Cronley, M., & Cline, T. (2012). Consumer Behavior (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Moye, J. (2016). ‘One Brand’ Strategy, New Global Campaign Unite Coca-Cola Trademark. Retrieved from

NBCNews. (n.d.). Sweet! America’s Top 10 Brands of Soda. Retrieved from

Pandey, P. (2015). Branding Strategy of Pepsi. Retrieved from (2014). Top 10 Business Rivalries. Retrieved from


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