Pepsi vs. Coke: Which Brand Had the Most Successful Summer Campaign?

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Pepsi and Coca-Cola are notorious for their polarizing effect on the general public, as consumers typically love one and despise the other. However, this summer, both brands moved beyond the taste bud battle, instead competing for fans through promotions designed to enhance perception and loyalty. By embracing the fun-loving spirit of the season, both brands aimed to increase engagement during the time when consumers were most likely to seek cold refreshments. But which brand saw the greatest success?
Customer Engagement

Pepsi and Coca-Cola are notorious for their polarizing effect on the general public, as consumers typically love one and despise the other. However, this summer, both brands moved beyond the taste bud battle, instead competing for fans through promotions designed to enhance perception and loyalty. By embracing the fun-loving spirit of the season, both brands aimed to increase engagement during the time when consumers were most likely to seek cold refreshments. But which brand saw the greatest success?Here, we speak with David Porche, senior analyst, customer success group at Networked Insights, to examine the inner workings of both campaigns and how these promotions resonated with each brand's target audience:

1to1 Media: Describe both Pepsi and Coke's current campaigns. How are they similar/different from a strategic standpoint?

David Porche: Pepsi's summer campaign allows fans to win tickets to concerts and sporting events, as well as travel and restaurant deals. Every hour since June 15, fans have had the opportunity to win a variety of tickets, and can also use their Pepsi loyalty program app, Pepsi Pass, to access unique concert opportunities. Involvement in Pepsi's campaign can be as simple as hanging out with other friends who also have the Pepsi Pass app.

In contrast, Coke's #ShareACoke campaign is back for the second consecutive year with more names than ever. The #ShareACoke social strategy is impressive, offering consumers the ability to show up on Coca-Cola billboards if they share a picture using the hashtag #ShareACoke. This year's #ShareACoke experiential tour will distribute over one million Coke cans at theme parks and other big events.

Both events are inherently social due to each company's incorporation of a hashtag and encouragement of social sharing. However, Pepsi's campaign focuses on rewarding users, therefore improving customer loyalty, while Coke's focuses on spreading brand awareness. Pepsi's call-to-action to download the Pepsi Pass app is a great way to encourage sign ups to their loyalty program. It's also important to note that Pepsi is piggybacking off of negative feedback to Coke's #ShareACoke campaign. Pepsi has responded to #ShareACoke complaints on social media by encouraging consumers angered that their name is not on a Coke bottle to enter to win free concert tickets from Pepsi instead.

1to1: How have consumers responded to each campaign via social media? Why does this matter? How do these companies measure campaign success and customer sentiment in the first place?

DP: Companies often measure sentiment when analyzing a campaign. However, this is just one of the many measurement tactics they can use. Overall, volume and brand lift are some other common metrics. But brands can dig deeper and understand more by looking beyond simple sentiment to the emotions consumers express around their campaigns. Looking at sentiment alone may skew brand perception and give marketers an inaccurate view of consumer reaction. For example, looking at sentiment alone, Pepsi responses from July 4 to August 3 were 73 percent positive and zero percent negative. Coke, on the other hand, was only 11 percent positive. What does that really tell us?

Measuring consumer emotions, these brands can understand if and how their message is resonating. For example, we found that Pepsi's conversations elicited 100 percent positive emotional responses. The top emotions associated with Pepsi's campaign were success (80 percent), love (11 percent), and desire (8 percent). Consumers were expressing their love for the campaign and a desire to win tickets.

In that same time frame, Coke's #ShareACoke campaign elicited 98 percent positive emotional responses. The top three emotions were amusement (45 percent), love (15 percent), and hope (13 percent). Consumers were primarily excited about finding their names on bottles. Understanding the emotions associated with a campaign is essential to campaign analysis. Looking at sentiment alone gives a one-dimensional look at consumer responses to a topic, while emotions allow for a more complex understanding. In Coke's case, positive sentiment was lower than expected. However, by digging into their emotions, you see that consumers are, for the most part, enjoying #ShareACoke.

1to1: Why have consumers responded so positively to Pepsi's campaign? Why are fewer, but more positive, tweets indicative of its success?

DP: Consumers are excited to win giveaways and are expressing a desire to do so, accounting for much of Pepsi's positive conversation. While Pepsi might not garner a large number of tweets, it's important for marketers to measure how the campaign resonated with their target and potentially changed how consumers feel about the brand. A campaign that improves brand perception rather than increases conversation volume is more impressive than a campaign that accumulates a large sum of negative tweets.

1to1: What does Pepsi's success mean for Coke? How will this continue to impact the remainder of their #ShareACoke campaign?

DP: Pepsi's ability to respond to Coke's #ShareACoke campaign has really been an add-on to an already successful campaign, but that's not to say that Coke is in trouble. We found that, while Pepsi has benefitted from responding to the #ShareACoke campaign, the Coca-Cola brand hasn't been harmed as a result. For example, desire is still a top emotion for Coca-Cola as a brand, accounting for 26 percent of the brand's conversations. And we found that conversations related to desire are mostly consumers wishing they had a Coke. However, it is important that Coca-Cola (and other brands) monitor their competitors, as well as their own brand perception. Social posts can be indicative of purchase intent and other business metrics.

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